Chopper pumps get McCleary staff endorsement

  • Thu Aug 18th, 2016 1:30am
  • News

As they have in the past, chopper pumps recently came before the McCleary City Council. Cemetery rules also were discussed.

Chopper pumps, which are used in sewer systems to chop solid waste into a “slurry” before it enters sewer lines, have been a repetitive discussion at McCleary council meetings.

A developer with plans to build in rural McCleary (beyond city limits where the county has purview) asked the city to allow for connections to the city sewer lines with chopper pumps. That request was made in April 2016. Chopper pumps and a sewer line connection would be used instead of septic tank systems.

In the past, the argument has been made by concerned residents that the land where the developer plans to install chopper pumps is situated above an aquifer. If chopper pumps fail, those residents asked the council, who would be on the hook to replace them, and if the property owner refuses or is unable to replace the failed pumps, would the city be on the hook?

If the property owner and city both are unable to replace a failed chopper pump, the concerned residents worried that could endanger the aquifer, which is part of the city’s drinking water supply.

The city held a public workshop to discuss concerns with residents.

“The city had an open workshop to discuss the grinder pumps,” Mayor Brent Schiller said. “We had a great meeting that day, and got a lot of questions answered. I think we’re ready to make a motion tonight and move forward.”

City public works director Todd Baun at the Aug. 10 council meeting said the developer still is interested in the location.

“I talked (to the developer) this week and he still said he may be interested in proceeding forward, but right now he has septic approval from the county on that property,” Baun said.

McCleary wastewater and treatment plant manager Kevin Trewhella prefers chopper pumps to septic tanks, he said.

“That’s a big huge aquifer under there… that water goes straight into the ground to feed what we drink. Right now the state says the water out here that we drink is so good we don’t even have to chlorinate,” Trewhella said. “If we get 14 septic tanks out there, one thing the septic tanks do is they fail… Personally, I would much rather have E grinder pumps anywhere out there in the county, just to have maybe one more septic tank not fail.

“My point of view is, if you can have an E grinder pump out there and make the system safer from a drinking water point of view — hey, that’s what I would want.”

Both Baun and Trewhella said the city’s wastewater system could more than handle the potential added waste.

The council unanimously voted to bring forward an ordinance to set rates and conditions for grinder pump use when connected to the city’s sewer system.


Following a clean-up push by the city’s public works department, several residents complained to city staff and leadership that their items were missing from graves.

Staff and the mayor met with those citizens to calm the situation.

“We’ve been doing (the clean up) a little harder than we have in the past, so a lot more stuff is missing, and people are starting to notice it and they’re getting upset. And I understand that because it’s a touchy subject,” Baun said. “To help relieve some of the issue of the missing items, we are going to move out cemetery rules and regulations that we have on the website, we’re going to make it more easily accessible for people to find on the web page.”

A new sign of the regulations will be posted at the cemetery.

In addition to posting the rules on the city’s website, Mayor Schiller said he would discuss a possible solution to future concerns.

Schiller, who works for the state Department of Transportation, said WSDOT deals with a similar issue regarding roadside memorials. WSDOT holds any items it removes from those memorials for 30 days to allow for relatives and friends to collect those belongings after they’re cleared from the roadway.

Schiller said he hoped a similar policy could be created for the city.

Both Schiller and Baun said rumors that items had been stolen from the cemetery are untrue. The missing items were collected by the city’s public works staff during the clean-up efforts.