Conflict could delay Madrona K-8 opening

Disagreement between water, school districts
By Brian Soergel | Jun 20, 2018

Madrona K-8 kids looking forward to entering their brand-new school this fall may have to wait, due to a grown-up disagreement between the Edmonds School District and the Olympic View Water and Sewer District.

Olympic View says it’s concerned that hooking up to the school’s drainage system would pollute its aquifer, the underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or other materials that groundwater can be extracted from through water wells.

The school and water district met Monday, June 11, in what ESD spokeswoman Kelly Franson said was a positive discussion to try to understand each other’s key points and interests. The two sides met again June 14.

“Our new Madrona school and its associated stormwater plan exceed the highest professional and environmental standards,” ESD Superintendent Kris McDuffy said in a letter to parents and guardians.

“When concerns were raised by Olympic View, we worked quickly to internally investigate any potential issues, and also funded an independent third-party blind study of our Madrona stormwater well system.”

The school district says all approvals for its widely used stormwater well system were obtained from entities with jurisdiction in the matter, the Department of Ecology and the City of Edmonds, the latter which approved the use of the stormwater well system in August 2016.

“Edmonds School District chose to use stormwater wells at Madrona K-8 after extensive study because they provide the highest level of water quality in the most cost-effective way,” Franson said.

The agreement that Olympic View presented to ESD late last month made the same demands as from early 2017, Franson said. After extensive discussion, research, and modification of the construction designs and monitoring plan, the school district responded to those demands in writing in September 2017.

Accommodations that Edmonds School District made include:

• Installation of shut-off valves;

• Extending monitoring period from the Department of Ecology standard of two years to five years;

• Increasing the number of monitoring wells from one to four; and

• Developing an expanded list of potential pollutants to monitor.

The proposed agreement from Olympic View imposes unusually severe and unprecedented conditions that are not authorized by the applicable regulations for stormwater quality, Franson said.

“Under existing laws, we are already responsible for any potential negligence. Olympic View has been asking for a level of liability that is unreasonable and unacceptable to us on the advice of our legal counsel.”

Olympic View sees things in a different light.

“We are responsible for the health and safety of the people we serve,” Olympic View said in a statement. “We take our responsibility very seriously, and have maintained the highest standards in our stewardship of the natural creek, Deer Creek, that supplies 40 percent of the water sold to our customers.

“We are committed to working, cooperatively, with ESD to reach an agreement so that the new school can be occupied. We will not be rushed into entering into an agreement that does not protect our water for current and future generations.”

Olympic View said it was not notified by Edmonds School District or the City of Edmonds that there were plans to use multiple, deep (80-120 feet) underground injection control wells at the new Madrona School site during the 2014-16 planning process.

ESD consultants were aware that the location was within the Deer Creek Surface Source Protection Area, Olympic View added, as adopted by the Department of Health and Olympic View in 2002.

Olympic View General Manager Lynne Danielson said the district’s consulting hydrogeologist, Robinson Noble, reported of a potential threat to the spring water source for Deer Creek when the confining layer of the aquifer is breached and stormwater is allowed to run, untreated, into the ground.

“If the school district can offer satisfactory evidence that protections are in place to preclude the introduction of contaminants through their stormwater system, and verify that the operation does not have an adverse effect on the groundwater quality, then Olympic View might reasonably accept this project,” the Robinson Noble report noted.

“Without such a program and assurances from the School District, we have serious concerns that the system could threaten the water quality of the Deer Creek Springs facility.”

The Edmonds School District, in turn, worked with its own consultant, Pacific Groundwater Group, in an independent third-party study of the Madrona stormwater well system.

The study found no issues or concerns with the school district’s proposed system, and concluded “the use of (underground injection control) wells, as proposed, is consistent with best management practices. The project’s monitoring plan adds additional protection, and is designed to address concerns of the local drinking water purveyor. The five-year monitoring period should be sufficient to identify effects of routine operations.”

Students could be bused

So what does all this mean to Madrona’s more than 600 students?

If no agreement is reached, they will start the 2018-19 school year at the former Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood.

“We realize this situation is far from ideal, but of the choices available to us at this point, temporarily moving to the former Alderwood Middle School is the solution that is best for our students and their learning environment, and is the most fiscally responsible,” Superintendent McDuffy said.




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