Water Usage

At-a-Glance:

Water Agreement between PTPC and City

  • Uses 12-14 million gallons of water DAILY for (almost) free from the City of Port Townsend!
    • WATER-LEASE-PT-and-Mill-1956-1983 through March 2020
    • the contract expires March 2020
    • compare to usage by all other users of less than 900,000 gallons per day for all of the other approximately 4700 individuals, farms and businesses together.
    • Appendix W contains a good timeline of the evolving payment arrangements and gifts to PTPC over the near-century.
  • Maintenance Agreement:
    • The City maintains most of the OGWS.
    • PTPC maintains some of the OGWS portion that serves the mill.
    • Value of the water: at commercial rates, estimated value of PTPC’s water use plus commercial base rate fees would be well in excess of $4 million per year!
    • Value of the maintenance: estimated at $186,000 annually by a city official.
    • PTPC negotiates to reduce maintenance they actually have to carry out. c.f. PT Leader articles from last major system upgrade
  • Pictures and maps  
  • 2013 PT Water Customer Overview

How much water does PTPC use?

  • 2017 – 4.8 billion gallons, or 13.3 million gallons per day. 
  • 2016 – 4.64 billion gallons, or 12.9 million gallons per day.
  • 2015 – 4 billion gallons, or 11 million gallons per day. 
  • Potable (treated by City) vs. Process Water (untreated by City)
    • PTPC’s total water is not metered directly, but estimated by total system draw minus all other users.
    • As of 2017, potable is now metered and billed at “commercial rates”.
    • What portion of their total water is metered, at what rate, and how much do they pay or get offset by good works?
  • For comparison, all other users combined use around 1.3-1.5 million gallons per day, about 12% of the total. (source: PT Leader, Aug 25, 2015)

Water Rights

  • The City of Port Townsend owns rights to all water from the Olympic Gravity Water System. Usage by the mill is detailed in the water contract, above.
    • Municipal water rights are permanent and unlike private water rights, never “go away” for non- or diminished-usage. (Source: realtors’ water rights workshop, ca. 2010)

Port Townsend’s Water System

  • The Olympic Gravity Water System, or OGWS, lets water flow from the Olympic Mountains. At a split just outside of town, 12-14 million gallons per day goes to PT Paper
    • After the split, the City of Port Townsend and all other users currently pull about 1,000,000 gallons per day, with a potential maximum of up to 4 million gallons per day.
    • The City’s new (2017) water treatment plant is after the split so we might not be (or might no longer be) paying to treat their potable water. Have the water department verify this.
    • The rest of Jefferson County used to also pull from the OGWS but as of Fall 2017, they now pull from an aquifer near Circle & Square Automotive out in the County. (source: Jefferson County PUD)
    • Historically, PTPC has estimated their water usage and reports it.
      • The City Water Engineer says that they also have a way to estimate the amount, although the two amounts can differ by 10-20%.
      • The water was supposed to start being metered. Has it been? If not, why not? And when? Ask your city council.
      • PTPC’s estimated water usage tracks their production.
    • During the last drought in this area, PTPC reportedly reduced their water consumption to 9 million gallons per day, but popped it back up as soon as the drought was declared “over.”

Who Built the System? Who Paid for It?

  • In 1929, the City floated bonds to build the OGWS. PTPC funded the bonds and the City paid them back in full over the next few decades. As consideration, the City gave PTPC free use of the water for about 25 years in the above-linked water usage contract.
  • In the 1950’s, a schedule of fees was delineated, but much of that was waived “in consideration” of PTPC’s early backing of the City’s initial construction bond.
  • The consideration (i.e., basically free water) was extended to March 2020, when it is now due to expire.
  • Source: The above water usage agreement, especially Appendix W.
  • In a City Council “work session” meeting ca. 2010, the City Manager stated that the city would not make such a bad deal in the future. But in the next breath, mentioned potentially offering offsets to the mill for anything they might be charged! Would that the rest of us were offered such a deal!

More detail —

By contract agreement with the City of Port Townsend, Port Townsend Paper uses as much water as they want from the City’s Olympic Gravity Water System, or OGWS, and the City “leases back” up to 4 million gallons per day for use by all other customers, although currently about 1,300,000 gallons is used. You’ll have to read the contract or speak with Ian Jablonski to learn the financial side of the lease-back.

PTPC pulls an estimated 12-14 million gallons daily. They take pristine mountain water from the OGWS, run it multiple times through their system, treat the now-dirty process water with enzymes in a 35-acre ASB/”aerated stabilization basin” (aka “the pond”), and from there, dump the heated water plus about 80-130,000 pounds of toxins annually  into the eelgrass beds of Port Townsend Bay. Those toxins include mercury, ammonia, hydrogen sulfides, organic compounds (source: US EPA’s “ECHO” online database).

The rest of us, residents and business owners, are expected to pay for the water that we use (and would be fined mightily for such levels of pollution). Port Townsend Paper should be paying their fair share. The City claimed in 2015 that not continuing to charge a handful — fewer than a dozen at any time — of poor customers $50-100/month even when their water was shut off would bankrupt the system (they since backed off from that stance). Yet at the time the City expressed little concern for $300,000 in monthly losses for water that’s given to the mill for free.

It is time for PT Paper, which uses more than all of us combined, to step up and pay for the water that they use.

Begin talking with our City Councillors now, and support them in writing a lease that requires PT Paper to pay for their water use, just like any other business in town.