The City of Port Townsend rare water system, the Olympic Gravity Water System, or OGWS pipes pristine water from the Olympic Mountains. At a split just outside of town, 12-14 million gallons per day goes to PT Paper where it is used and thence dumped into Port Townsend Bay. From the other branch less than 900,000 gallons per day is chemically treated and goes to all other East Jefferson/City of Port Townsend water customers.

Map of OGWS Port Townsend Water System

1956 1983 Water lease PT and Mill Expires March 15, 2020

2013 PT Water Customer Overview

Port Townsend Paper uses 12-14 million gallons of water per day for free!

Compare: all other customers combined use less than 900,000 gallons per day.

The lease agreement terms giving this consideration to the mill were supposed to expire in the early 1950’s but have been repeatedly extended even though the justifications are dereasingly material. The present lease which continues the giveaway is due to expire on March 15, 2020.

(An aside: the City claimed in 2015 that not continuing to charge a handful of poor customers $50-100/month even when their water was shut off would bankrupt the system, yet at the time the City expressed little concern for monthly losses of nearly $100,000 for water given to the mill for free.)

Myth: The mill paid for the City’s water system.

Truth: NO! In 1929 (ca.), the City floated a bond for the system. The mill put up the money and was paid back in full over the next 25 or so years.

Myth: The mill maintains the City water system.

Truth: NO! Under contract with the City, the mill is supposed to maintain a certain portion of the system, and even that is limited. Estimated value: $186,000/year. Compare with value of water they don’t pay for, which would be at a commercial rate of about $4.93 per thousand gallons monthly plus commercial base rate.

Myth: The mill owns the water rights.

Truth: No. The City owns the water rights and leases a portion of it to Port Townsend Paper.

Myth: If the mill were somehow to stop using the water, the City would lose rights to that daily 12-14 million gallons of water. Those rights would just disappear!

Truth: Not so! Under Washington water law, municipalities never lose water rights due to lack of use. The City of Port Townsend would retain rights to all of the water that presently flows through the OGWS, including all water that presently goes to Port Townsend Paper.

Pollution: The mill pours about 82,000 pounds of pollution annually into the eelgrass beds of Port Townsend Bay, depending on production. Reported chemicals include about 81 pounds of lead, some years up to 4 pounds of mercury, plus acetaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and so on.