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Tax Dollars Wasted in Dump Site Research

July 26, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Washington State Parks Department spent about $225,000 on a broken RV dump site at one campground and then, when the fix succeeded, they undid all the work. KIRO-TV, Seattle, uncovered the story recent.

By just looking over a little plot of land at Kitsap Memorial Park near Poulsbo, it’s tough to see where the state spent nearly a quarter million dollars on a “green” alternative septic tank system. The above-ground valves, PVC pipe and blue filters are dwarfed by the prominence of the locked gates and “CLOSED” sign, the station reported.

RVers complained to us that they’ve watched state workers dig and study and engineer the place since 2006, yet campers still can’t empty their toilet holding tanks, like promised.

Camper Darla Gunderson told KIRO 7, “For a lot of years I’ve seen our tax dollars go toward things that weren’t very important, lots of years. I noticed the sign saying “closed” with directions to other facilities. ($225,000) is a lot of money, in these times especially. I image if they had more money they’d still be pouring it in there.”

Normal septic tanks, which were used for years at Kitsap Park, are relatively inexpensive. They are made to simply store waste in underground vaults for pumping later or for filtering affluent through a large drain field of gravel and sand. State parks officials tell Team 7 Investigators, they wanted to invent something else — something that hadn’t been used for RV waste before.

Project manager Joe Ward said his vision was “A high-tech solution to a low-tech problem that’s been driving us nuts for a long time.”

But was it a cost effective solution?

KIRO Team 7 investigators dug through public records, receipts, and action plans for a project called MBR High Strength Pilot Test.

A private project manager (not Joe Ward) charged $176.40 an hour to help the state understand the viability of a mini-wastewater treatment plant called a membrane bio reactor.

Records show that in total, taxpayers spent about $90,000 just for engineering/design, plus about $124,000 for installation, testing, then the removal of the system even though the bio membrane system worked to clean the RV waste at the camp site dump station.

Ward says the project was labeled “pilot” for a reason. State parks officials wanted to see if the membrane waste filtering system was “viable” near sensitive waterways like Hood Canal.

Ward was asked on camera, “You spent close to a quarter million dollars on this. What did I get for it?”

He replied, “You got a technology that anyone can apply anywhere that has been proven.”

Ward said that to fully implement the system, even though it works, would mean spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more. That’s off the table for now, so RVers are going to have to find another place to dispose of waste.

Ward emphasized he believes the money was not wasted.

“RV dump stations are a high impact on the environment. We have to do smart things so we know what the impact is and how to mitigate for it.”

Even though a closed sign at Kitsap Memorial Park nears Poulsbo has been up for five years running, the Parks Department hasn’t given up hope. They say they’re studying this membrane technology to see if it might help them with RV waste at other parks.

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