Welcome to the City of Port Townsend

Wastewater Collection System

Basic History
The City of Port Townsend was founded in 1851, platted in 1852, and incorporated in 1891. It was known as a seafaring community with a safe harbor for commercial commerce. The first sanitary sewer lines were installed in 1906, made of vitrified clay, and had inspection lamp wells. In 1908 the Empire State Surety Company of New York supplied a bond of $5,000 for the construction of a sewer system. The American Bonding Company of Baltimore provided another $21,000, in 1909, for additional sewer system construction. City Ordinance No. 753 was passed in 1910, eliminating "privy vaults" and requiring connection to sewer mains, where accessible. Today there are 3,992 service connections to 76 miles of city owned sewer lines; made of reinforced concrete, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and vitrified clay

A collection system carries wastewater from homes and business through underground pipes, to a wastewater treatment facility. Discharged wastewater from a customer passes through a six inch or smaller diameter service line. Wastewater continues to flow from the service line into larger main lines of eight to twelve inches or larger. Eventually the flow enters an interceptor line which is thirty inches in diameter. The interceptor delivers all flows to the wastewater treatment facility located at 5300 Kuhn Street (North Beach area).

Preventative Maintenance
Collection system preventative maintenance allows for optimal performance and is less expensive than emergency repairs. Properly operating sewer lines provide uninterrupted customer service and environmental protection from overflows. A comprehensive maintenance program includes numerous activities, such as:

  • Visual inspections for cracks, corrosion, and damage.
  • TV the sewer lines for conditions, blockages, roots, and wear.
  • Introduction of expanding biodegradable foam to kill and inhibit root growth.
  • Jet washing and cutting to remove any growth, roots, grease, and gravel.

Gains Lift Station Lift Stations
Lift stations are used to overcome elevation differentials in a collection system. They force sewage from a low elevation to a higher one through a force main. The city of Port Townsend has seven lift stations, each with built in redundancy allowing normal service should any one pump fail. The largest lift stations are located on Monroe Street, the Boat Haven boat yard , and Gaines Street. Sanitary sewer from Monroe and Boat Haven lift stations are discharged into the primary pump station at Gaines Street. This station is equipped with a back-up generator providing instantaneous start-ups during power failures. Pumps from the Gaines Street station force wastewater from the downtown area to a higher elevation where it eventually gravity flows to the wastewater treatment facility. The remaining smaller lift stations are located on Vista Boulevard, 31st Street (near Hancock Street), Hamilton Heights (at Howard St.), and one near Point Hudson.

Related Topics to the Collection System:

Sewer back-ups
If you experience a sewer back-up during regular working hours (8AM-5PM, M-F) call our main office at 379-5096. After normal working hours, weekends, and holidays call 385-3831, Ext. 1 for help. A line maintenance crew or stand-by personnel will be dispatched to your address as soon as possible. This assistance is free. If a stoppage is in the city’s sewer-main, it will be fixed as quickly as possible and you will be informed on the work and progress. If the problem is with your private service line, you will be instructed to contact a plumber or take other steps to fix the problem. The City of Port Townsend can not repair or work on private service lines (also known as "side sewers").

A side sewer consists of the sewer pipe extension from the premises served to the city sewer main. It is the responsibility of the owner(s) to maintain their own side sewer and any appurtenances.

Backwater valves
Some home owners live in flood prone areas at the bottom of hills or in low laying valleys. One of the keys to protection is knowing your home location in relation to the sanitary sewer system that serves your home or building. A sewer back-up valve (backwater valve) can make the difference in having a nice dry basement or one that is knee deep in sewage. In normal operation the valve allows wastewater flow from the home, through the side sewer, and into the city sewer main. In a flood condition water from the sewer main may cause a reverse flow from the city sewer main, through a side sewer, and into a home. A backwater valve senses this condition, closes a flap in the side sewer, and prevents sewage from entering the structure.

What Not to Flush Down the Sewer
These items cause expensive repairs to sewer lines, pumps, monitoring equipment, and home sewer lines. In addition some of these items can have negative, long-term impacts on the environment even after treatment.

Food, Grease, and Oil Rags Petroleum products and flammables
Coffee grounds Sanitary wipes Prescription and over-the-counter drugs
Egg shells Paper towels Household hazardous substances
Produce labels Cat litter Solvents, paints, etc.
Sanitary napkins Diapers Antifreeze
Dental floss Condoms Cigarette Butts

Sewer Odors
The most common cause of sewer odor is a dry P-trap. These traps resemble a “U” shape and are most visible under kitchen and bathroom sinks. They are also in shower stalls, tubs, floor drains, and washer discharge stations. P-traps hold a small amount of water preventing the gaseous sewer environment from entering homes or business. When P-traps don’t have water in them odors travel from the sewer into living or work areas. To restore the function of a dry P-trap simply pour a pitcher full of water or run water from faucet into the dry trap. Other causes of sewer odors include: Clean-out plugs that are loose or have been removed, evaporation of water in a toilet trap, a bad wax seal ring located between base of toilet and toilet flange, broken or loose interior sewer line(s), or a sewer vent is upwind of building air intake.

Sump pump and roof drain regulation
The city of Port Townsend prohibits discharges of water into the sanitary sewer from roof drainage and/or sump pumps. This type of water lessens the hydraulic capacity of the sewer collection system, lift stations, and the wastewater treatment facility. Cited Sections that state the prohibition are:

Port Townsend Municipal Code
Chapter 13.21.060-F. It is unlawful to divert or cause to be diverted any storm water, surface run-off or underground drainage to any sewer, maintenance hole or other appurtenant structure or portion of the sewer system.

Policy 19.6.4. Prohibits the connection of roof drains, foundation or sump-pump drains, or any surface water drainage facility to the wastewater system.

Fat Oil Grease Brochure
Fat, oil, and grease are responsible for 47% of all sewer blockages. To learn more read: " How to Keep Fat, Oil, and Grease in the Kitchen." A hard copy of this brochure is available at the wastewater treatment facility on 5300 Kuhn Street, Port Townsend, WA.