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The Wallingford Community Council is very concerned about everyone’s poop

Concerns that higher density means overwhelmed sewage systems don’t quite come together

Look, we’re not gonna top PubliCola’s headline on this story so let’s just get down to business.

Late last week, the Wallingford Community Council asked its members to deluge city hall over their concerns about the neighborhood's sewage infrastructure and it’s inability to keep up with the, uh, demands, that come with more density.

If the HALA proposals to upscale zoning are successful, the increased housing density will exacerbate the existing raw sewage problem. Every new toilet added to the system means more fecal matter in our freshwater!

If you think “HALA isn’t good because of all the extra poop” sounds a bit like some NIMBY concern-trolling, you’re not alone. PubliCola decided to dig into this dirty business to find out if it's true that an increase in resident density will overwhelm our sewage system to the point where we’re all up to our eyeballs in poop.

...raw sewage only makes up 10 percent of the city sewer flows that create the combined sewer overflow problem. 90 percent of the overload, according to Seattle Public Utilities, comes from storm water runoff.

Second, the city is already designing the Ship Canal Water Quality Facility to bring CSOs in Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford into compliance with health standards. “It has been sized to fully control the area’s outfalls,” Reading told me. SPU’s project overview explains, “the 2.7-mile, tunnel will capture and temporarily hold more than 15 million gallons of storm water mixed with some sewage that over flows during heavy rains. When the storm passes, overflows will be sent to the existing West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Magnolia.” SPU estimates that will keep 50 million gallons of overflow out of the Ship Canal, Salmon Bay, and Lake Union every year and prevent the nearly all of the 130 CSOs that hit Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford every year.

PC also notes an EPA study that determined that “higher-density development produces less runoff and less impervious cover than low-density development.” In other words, multi-family developments are actually better for sewage systems than a whole bunch of single-family homes.

All of which isn't to say that Wallingford should just be turned into a series of micro-apartment towers. Just that this tactic doesn’t actually seem to be based in truth. Try again.