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County to research Outlook sewer woes

OUTLOOK - Now it's Outlook's turn.

With a $24,000 community development block grant in hand, Yakima County will look for solutions to Outlook's sewer issues.

"We have a chance to upgrade the sewer system for Outlook," County Commissioner Ron Gamache said of the grant on Wednesday following the first commissioners' meeting of the year.

Yakima County Public Works Director Vern Redifer noted that, in his 15 years with the county, Outlook's sewer situation has been a concern.

"There's been a need to do something for a long time," he said of needed improvements, such as replacing Outlook's drain fields. Redifer also suggested there may be water quality issues in Outlook related to the sewer situation.

The county's Utility Manager, Joe Stump, indicated in October that Yakima County has been looking at running services to Outlook since a public health emergency was declared there several years ago.

"The community of Outlook is faced with public environmental health risks due to frequently failing individual septic systems," the county said of the community of 471 residents when making the grant request.

The problem has taken so long to be addressed, explained Redifer, because Yakima County has only so many block grant dollars available each year.

"Each year projects are prioritized and this is Outlook's year," he said.

Redifer couldn't give a firm date when actual work on a new sewer system might begin.

"We'll have an engineering design study done by mid-year," he said. "After that it depends on the nature and the cost of the work."

Total cost of the engineering study is $27,800, with the county picking up the additional $3,800 to pay for it.

Possible options resulting from the study include constructing a new on-site sewer plant or connecting sewer services with the city of Sunnyside.

Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell has noted that any move to have Outlook connect to the city for sewer service would be subject to approval from the city council.

As with any utility Sunnyside sells outside its city limits, Yakima County-and by extension Outlook residents-would be required to pay one-and-a-half times the sewer rate Sunnyside residents pay.

But that's still all speculation at this point, Redifer said, depending on the outcome of the sewer study.

"Our goal is to come up with the best solution from both a physical (on-site) and economic perspective."

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