Residents of a Puyallup mobile home park beset by flooding and septic system failures emerged from a City Council meeting Tuesday with what could be a solution for one of their problems, but came up empty handed on the other.
After hearing from some two dozen residents and a handful of city officials, the council unanimously approved a developer’s request for a final plat on the third and fourth phases of the Stewart Crossing residential development.
As a condition of that approval, developer Stewart Crossing LLC must raise the level of an emergency overflow on a stormwater retention pond, install drains on east and west sides of the Elmwood Mobile Manor, and take steps to halt flooding west of the development.
Installation of those drains, however, might not proceed until the separate sewage system problem is solved, according to the city. The city doesn’t want sewage mingling with the stormwater the new drains will carry to a detention pond and ultimately to the Puyallup River.
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The developer has already put money aside under the city’s control to install the drains, but those drains cannot be done until the sanitary sewer problems are solved, and neither the city nor the residents has any immediate prospects of finding those funds.
The object of the conditions is to end groundwater and runoff flooding of the 44-unit mobile home park at 1006 72nd Ave. Court E. The park is sandwiched between two sections of the Stewart Crossing residential development.
Elmwood residents contend that because the development raised the land where the houses are sited by 3 to 4 feet, runoff from the area is trapped in the mobile home park, which now is the lowest land in the immediate vicinity.
They also suspected the water was to blame for the failure of several septic systems in the park.
Some residents can’t use their toilets or showers and are using portable restrooms and friends’ facilities.
Kurt Wilson, whose company owns the developing land, said he wants to work with Elmwood residents to fix the flooding. His company will begin work on the drainage modifications as soon as permits are granted and the land is dry enough to allow construction.
Construction of the higher residential lots blocked the natural drainage in the area, said Wilson, whose company bought the land from a bankrupt Canadian company that originally filled the area.
His company, in addition to doing the work the city has required, intends to clear debris and vegetation from non-functional drainage ditches to speed draining of the land.
The council had repeatedly delayed approval of the final plat of phases three and four of Stewarts Crossing while the city studied the problems and planned remedies.
City Manager Kevin Yamamoto said the preliminary results of an engineering study showed the flooding and sewer malfunctions aren’t related.
Assistant City Manager Steve Kirkelie said heavy winter rains created problems throughout the region. The Puyallup area, he said, already has seen 43.23 inches of rain through Monday. The yearly average rainfall for the area is 38 inches.
“We could have no more rain and still be over the yearly average,” he said.
The mobile home park’s 22 septic systems are on average more than 50 years old, don’t meet modern requirements and are failing, the city said.
Puyallup’s building codes won’t allow new septic tank systems in the area, so the trailer park would have to be connected to the city’s sewer system to restore their functions.
Connecting the mobile homes would require constructing a sewer main down the centerline of the park’s sole road. The cost would exceed $1 million. Another system using pumps and grinders would cost about $440,000, Yamamoto said.
Elmwood residents, many of whom are on fixed or low incomes, say the two alternatives are unaffordable for them.
Yamamoto said the city has investigated the possibility of state grants paying for the new system, but applying for and winning the grants is a lengthy process with no guarantee the grants would be funded.
The city also is investigating the possibility of a low interest loan with a balloon payment at the end to make payments affordable to Elmwood residents.
Mayor John Hopkins said he is checking other programs that might fund the new system.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663