Kapowsin Water District Receivership


Project Updates

  1. 2019
  2. 2018
Jan 11 
  • We continue to move forward on work preparing for drilling the well. Some residents may have seen Pierce County survey crew staff on the property near the treatment building. They are locating the easements and property lines for that site.
  • We are in discussions with Tacoma Public Utility on acquisition for some or all of this property for the well and additional treatment space if necessary. 
  • We are still waiting on grant contracts from the Department of Health and USDA-RD. These contracts provide grant money which will help pay for well construction.

Kapowsin Water District Receivership Action

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Tacoma Pierce County Health Department share responsibility for enforcing state drinking water regulations ensuring safe and reliable drinking water. When a water system fails to do this, and has exhausted all reasonable outlets for returning to compliance, DOH may request the court to appoint a receiver to operate the water system. 

DOH was unable to find an entity willing to be the receiver of Kapowsin Water District. Per Washington State law (RCW 43.70.195), the County where the water district resides is the receiver of last resort. On November 8, 2017, DOH filed a receivership petition for Kapowsin Water District (KWD) with Pierce County Superior Court and on November 13, 2017 a Superior Court Commissioner signed an order naming Pierce County as temporary Receiver of KWD.  On November 29, 2017, a court order was signed naming Pierce County permanent receiver of KWD.

Pierce County’s goal is to provide the Kapowsin Water District customers with safe and reliable drinking water.  In response to the receivership action, on November 29, 2017 the Pierce County Executive signed a Proclamation of Emergency allowing the County the resources to move forward with emergency actions to keep Kapowsin customers in water and restore their water source.

Brief History

The Kapowsin Water District (KWD) is a  water system located in Kapowsin, WA, located about 25 miles southeast of Tacoma in unincorporated Pierce County. KWD has a three-member board responsible for operating, maintaining, billing and making decisions for their system. The water system currently serves 39 connections. 

The KWD board had previously contracted with Valley Water District (VWD) to manage the water system with the hopes of merging the two separate districts into Valley.  A resolution was drafted, but was put on hold in in the spring of 2017 when the transmission line for the KWD water system broke. Valley began trucking in water to Kapowsin with a cost between $4,000 – 4,800/month.  

Valley submitted a federal Rural Development (RD) grant application on behalf of Kapowsin to pay for either fixing the broken transmission line or drilling a new well water source but were not successful in securing funds for this year or getting a solid commitment for funds in the future. As a result, Valley terminated their Agreement for Water System Management and Operation on November 17, 2017. (See link below).  This termination of the management contract, coupled with the failed water source, triggered the DOH receivership action.

Questions and Answers

How is Kapowsin Water District getting water now?
Pierce County has made arrangements for Water Buffalo Inc. to continue trucking potable drinking water to the Kapowsin system.  The source of this water is coming from a Rainier View Water Company treated water system.

Who is maintaining the water system?
Pierce County entered into an emergency contract with Valley Water District to manage the Kapowsin water system while Pierce County looks for solutions to bring a safe and reliable water source back online and work through other repairs and upgrades as necessary in the receivership process.

Will customers be submitting payments to VWD or the county next month?
The County will take over customer billing functions from Valley Water District. Kapowsin customers will submit payments to the County per the instructions listed in the County bill statement. The first customer bill statements were sent out on 12/31/17 and will continue on a bi-monthly billing cycle.

Will there be a rate change?
At this point it is premature to say what will happen with rates.  Pierce County will start transitioning over with the same $150/month base rate (see link below) that Valley was charging until an evaluation of all operating and improvement cost is complete. If Pierce County needs to propose a rate change or a special assessment, it will go through the County Council approval process. 

Other factors that may impact rates are any grant monies that are awarded, which will help defray costs of necessary repairs or upgrades, and bringing a water source back online to eliminate the need to truck in water.

How much are repairs to the system going to cost?
We do not know what the cost to repair the Kapowsin system is. The extent of future repairs or upgrades to the system is unknown at this time, but we will notify Kapowsin customers of future decisions as they become available.

Who do I call if there is an emergency situation with my water?
In the event of an emergency in the Kapowsin Water System please contact the 24 hr emergency number for Pierce County at 253-798-7000.  Once notified of an emergency situation, the County will contact Valley Water District to notify them of the emergency situation and request them to proceed with completing necessary emergency work.  If VWD is notified directly or discovers an emergency situation they will notify the County, as soon as it is feasible, of the scope, estimated cost of repairs and any corrective actions taken. The District will notify their 24 hour/7 day-a-week answering service of any emergency situations and if feasible will utilize a variety of methods (website, door hangers, knock on doors, etc.) to notify Kapowsin customers of any potential impacts resulting from the emergency situation.

What is the status of the Kapowsin Water District and KWD Board?
The Kapowsin Water District still exists. However, based on the Superior Court receivership appointment, Pierce County now has full authority to make all decisions regarding the water system.  The County is tasked with acting in the best interest of the customers while working towards full compliance with the regulations.   As part of the receivership process (within 1 year), DOH and Pierce County will update the judge on actions taken and make a recommendation as to what should happen to the water system into the future.  The judge will decide the ultimate actions regarding the Kapowsin Water District.

Who is the contact for an Escrow company?
Any inquiries for escrow purposes should be referred to our Pierce County Customer Billing Services group at 253-798-4020.  

I have a piece of property that is in the Kapowsin Water District boundary. Can I still connect?
At this time, the answer is no. The Washington State Department of Health evaluates water systems and assigns a category. The Kapowsin system is currently in the blue category meaning it is substantially in compliance but does not meet the standards in some areas. the County is working to get the system back into compliance. You can read more about this regulation by clicking here.

What is receivership?

The secretary of health or a local health officer can petition the court to place a failing public water system in receivership. The petition names a candidates(s) who agrees to assume operation of the water system. The Department of Health (DOH) recommends the court grant the receiver full authority to act in the best interests of the water system customers. This includes reporting recommendations for the system’s future operation to the court. The court appoints the county where the water system is located if no other entity is willing, capable or able, and the county cannot refuse to act as receiver.

The receiver can’t be held personally liable for any good faith, reasonable effort to assume and operate the system in compliance of court order. The receiver is authorized to collect reasonable charges on the water system customers to recover costs for improvements necessary for public health and safety.
 Once the petition is filed:
  • Within 3 days the court schedules an initial hearing naming the temporary receiver.
  • Within 14 days of the petition being filed, a full evidentiary hearing is held. The court enters an order, drafted with county participation, authorizing the county to proceed under powers granted by the order. 
  • The County takes control of management of the system, brings it up to required standards, then finds a qualified manager to take over the system permanently.
  • Within 12 months from appointment of receivership, DOH and the County present the court with a plan, including all reasonable and feasible alternatives, for disposition of the system. The court cannot require an entity to accept a system unless they agree to the terms and conditions in the disposition plan. The court can’t terminate receivership and return the system to the owners unless DOH approves of such action.

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