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County continues study on upgrading Outlook's water system

OUTLOOK - Yakima County officials want to take a closer look at Outlook's water problems.

On Tuesday county commissioners signed an agreement with the state of Washington to evaluate the feasibility of constructing a new public water system for Outlook.

The small community's water and sewer systems have been in the county's sights since a public health emergency was declared several years ago.

Though Yakima County isn't looking to own water systems, it is in a position to help. Public Works Director Vern Redifer noted the county under state guidelines is required to assume responsibility for water systems that have been abandoned.

"We want to help take care of water needs on the front end, rather than wait until a system is failing," he said.

A $26,000 grant from the Department of Health will fund the county's feasibility study of Outlook's water situation.

It comes on the heels of a $24,000 grant the Department of Health provided in January to study Outlook's sewer difficulties.

"We're working cooperatively with Sunnyside because it's in close proximity," Redifer told commissioners on Tuesday, regarding the water and sewer studies in Outlook.

Depending on the outcome of the study, which Redifer hopes to see completed this year, the county may simply hook Outlook up to Sunnyside's water and sewer system.

Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell said he has not heard from the county recently on the matter.

"There's been no change, we're still waiting to see if they propose anything," Stockwell said. Last fall Stockwell expressed some receptivity on the part of the city in providing water for Outlook.

Since Outlook is such a small community, Stockwell said at the time there would be no problem in providing the county with sewer and water on a long term basis.

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

But Stockwell's tone this week was a bit more guarded, noting, "It all depends on what the proposal is."

Redifer said the key problem with Outlook's water supply seems to be the supply line, not the source.

As a result, other options that may come out of the survey could include upgrading the piping infrastructure or even drilling a new community well.

While eyeing Outlook's water situation, the county will continue the sewer survey underway now.

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.

One step between now and the completion of the water study this year will be a town hall meeting with Outlook's citizens to determine community support for utility improvements.

"In the final analysis it's the people of Outlook that are going to fund the system," Redifer observed. "Hopefully we can get a community development block grant to cover the capital costs, but the residents of Outlook are still going to be paying the monthly bills."

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