More than water needed

The city is moving forward with the development of an emergency well facility at Rotary Park. Last Monday, the City Council approved funding to design a structure to house a pumping facility with a storage tank.

An approximately 1,000-square-foot building is likely to be designed and later constructed to house a 3,000 to 5,000-gallon storage tank and about 250 taps along with electrical equipment and possibly some additional storage for other emergency supplies. The city will spend $135,000 for the design work with real estate excise revenue to be repaid later with utility funds. The construction costs have not been budgeted and would have to come from increased utility rates, the potential sale of the city-owned lot on First Hill or a year-end surplus.

In approving the funding, the Council directed the designers to come up with the smallest possible housing structure. According to maintenance director Glenn Boettcher, there is not a need for more storage space because the city currently has enough room in its containers and facilities.

“It becomes harder to hide [the building] in the park,” Boettcher said of increasing the size for more storage space. “This would not be solving a need. If we find out later on that we need more space, we can solve it in other places.”

The storage tank is needed for “smooth delivery” to Islanders and will store unused water, according to the city staff report. Without a storage tank, the well pump would have to be downsized and would only provide enough water for 6,000 residents per day. Other design considerations developed by city staff include a simple and reliable operation such that Island resident volunteers could run the distribution if needed.

Last year, the city began drilling and eventually discovered that 570 feet beneath the Island is an aquifer that can produce water of both the quality and quantity to serve as a short-term source should an earthquake or other disaster break the Island’s supply from Seattle. It cost about $400,000 for the drilling and subsequent quantity and quality tests.

There are also two 40,000-gallon storage tanks adjacent to the park that would be available in such an event. While much of that water could potentially go toward firefighting or other emergency responses after an earthquake, city leaders hope the well would be able to supply Islanders with five gallons per person per day. Mercer Island’s current population is estimated to be about 22,340.

The distribution facility was decided over a direct link into the Island’s current infrastructure because users would only be limited to five gallons per person per day on the honor system, and it would present a contamination issue when the regular supply is returned.

“It couldn’t be monitored or restricted, and it would be coming out with an uncertain quality,” said Councilmember Bruce Bassett, who serves as the Council’s liaison on the Utility Board.

The Council’s vote to fund the design was unanimous.

Utility payment help for low-income Islanders

The City of Mercer Island is offering assistance with city water, sewer line maintenance and storm drain charges in 2008 to low-income seniors and disabled persons. The low-income program is available to you if you are a senior, age 62 or older (during 2008) and/or you are permanently disabled and receiving payments from SSI, SSDI or the Veteran’s Administration; are a resident of Mercer Island who owns or rents a single-family home; or you have a household income that does not exceed $27,250 for one person, $31,150 for two people, $35,050 for three people and $38,950 for four persons. The discount is 50 percent off of these charges.

The city also waives Emergency Medical Service charges for Medicaid-eligible persons who are receiving in-home care.

For information or to apply, go to, call 275-7606 or stop by city hall or Youth and Family Services at the Luther Burbank Administration Building.

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