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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Sewage Seeps In Washington Town Desperate For State Funds

Steven Pavlov
Wikimedia -
The sewage system in Carbonado, Washington, is leaking.

The sewage system is crumbling in Carbonado, Washington, near Mt. Rainier. And if Washington lawmakers fail to pass a capital construction budget before they adjourn Thursday, a plan to replace it—and many other projects around the state—will be put on hold.

Carbonado is an old mining town of about 700 people. It has clay sewer lines that are a century old. Daillene Argo, the town’s clerk-treasurer, said they recently scoped the system and found collapse and decay.

“Which means we are leaking gray water everywhere our sewer lines go,” she said.

Where those sewer lines go is through the yards and under the homes of Carbonado residents. The system is so degraded they have to flush it every other week.

And there’s another problem: the town’s water lines run too close to the sewer lines—so they also have to be replaced.

Credit Washington Legislature
Washington Legislature
Washington state Sen. Richard Phil Fortunato represents the town of Carbonado.

“When you have a water and a sewer problem it’s a gigantic problem,” said Republican state Sen. Phil Fortunato, who represents the town of Carbonado.

After years of planning, the replacement project is shovel-ready. But now the town is facing an indefinite delay of game. That’s because a significant chunk of the funding is wrapped up in the state’s capital construction budget. Republicans have refused to put that budget up for a final vote until there’s an agreement on how to deal with a court ruling that restricts drilling for wells.

Fortunato said that issue is so important it’s worth delaying passage of the capital budget. Even if it means a delay for Carbonado’s sewage project.

“Well, we’ve waited this long we can wait a little longer,” Fortunato said.

Argo agrees the well issue is also important. But she said there’s more to it than that.

“We’re leaking sewer water all over town,” Argo said. “And it’s irresponsible to not correct that; it’s a health hazard.”

But Carbonado may have to wait until next year when lawmakers reconvene at the Capitol.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."