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Emergency Sewer Program

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Currently Kirkland Video about the ESP
Take the Emergency Sewer Program Survey

Aaron McDonald, P.E.
Project Engineer
(425) 587-3837

Amy Burgos
Senior Accounting Associate
(425) 587-3125

Christian Knight
Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator
(425) 587-3831

Public Works Main Line
(425) 587-3800

  • Construct new sewer main to provide connections for aging septic systems
  • Protect land, water and property values
September 2013 Update:

In response to feedback from homeowners citing the currently estimated high cost for the 2013 Emergency Sewer Program, City staff has suspended engineering work.  The program is under further review and status updates will be sent to homeowners later this fall.

Emergency Sewer Program

The Emergency Sewer Program was developed at the direction of the City Council to address growing needs for sanitary sewer connections as old and failing septic systems experienced operational failures throughout the city. Providing access to sanitary sewer will allow residents the option to hook into the system when needed without expensive and disruptive delays. Providing sanitary sewer availability to areas of the City currently without has been a City goal since 1999, and this biannual program has, to date, provided 518 connections to properties on septic systems with 229 of those properties having connected, helping to protect land values and water quality.

Project Overview

After finalizing the areas to be included, an engineer works with the City to design a system that meets City design codes and provides sewer access to properties currently without.  A contractor is selected through a low-bid process, and the project is constructed, typically taking about 3 months time.  At the conclusion of construction, all costs are tabulated and each benefiting property is assessed an equal share of the costs.  Typical construction impacts include traffic impacts, noise (limited to 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, Monday - Friday), paving, and materials storage within the City right-of-way.  A full-time construction inspector ensures a complete and high-quality product for the City and its citizens.

About Kirkland's ESP

In Kirkland, there are many properties dependent upon septic systems, many of which are aged and failing. Septic systems are intended to be a short-term solution for handling waste water with an expected life of roughly 30 years. In order to provide long-term benefits of sanitary sewer to hazardous septic system situations, the City developed the Emergency Sewer Program in 1999.

What Can You Do If You Have A Septic Problem?
Some warning signs of a failure are:
  • Odors, surfacing sewage, soggy spots with lush green grass growth in the drain field or septic tank area
  • Plumbing or septic tank backups
  • Slow draining fixtures
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system

If you notice any of these signs or if you suspect your septic system may be having problems, contact King County Eastgate Environmental Health Services at 206-477-8050, or visit their website. They can offer advice and assistance for your failing system. They may also be helpful in getting the as-built drawings showing the location of your septic system on your property (not all records are complete and older systems may not have as-builts).

How Does the City Determine New Project Areas?

When starting a new ESP project, we contact property owners with septic systems using mailers, announcements, the City web site, cable TV channel, etc. We also hold public “open house” meetings that allow for residents to come share their concerns and septic issues with City staff. Information is gathered and assessed to determine the best area for the new project. Factors that help determine ESP project areas include the number and severity of septic problems in any one area and the interest shown by the neighbors in the surrounding community.

Emergency Sewer Program Financing Information
There are several costs associated with connecting to an "emergency sewer" main line. Listed below are frequently asked questions regarding the ESP costs and financing:

  1. Sewer Main Line – property owners benefiting from the ESP must begin to reimburse the City their portion (calculated as "Total Project Cost ÷ Number of Benefiting Property Owners") within 10-20 years after construction completion, depending on connection status. An ESP loan may be obtained from the City.

  2. Side Sewer Construction – It is the property owner’s responsibility to hire a private contractor to construct the side sewer to their home. These costs are not included in the ESP loan. A side sewer permit is required to initiate side sewer construction. Check the Yellow Pages under "Utility Contractors" or "Plumbing Contractors" for local companies who do side sewer construction work and to get an estimate.

    The total budget for the 2011 ESP is $1,400,000. Exact costs will be determined once the project is complete. The cost for one assessment in 2009 was approximately $16,000, and construction trends show each program year assessment increases by approximately 25%. Some parcels may be subdividable and would be charged multiple assessments based on the square footage of the lot.

  3. City FeesFees associated with connecting to sewer are a monthly residential sewer rate fee based on water consumption for the months of November through April.  Current fee schedule.

  4. Other Fees – Because King County treats Kirkland’s waste water, they have a capacity charge impact fee as well.  For a current fee schedule, see King County's website or call (206) 296-1450.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Emergency Sewer Program

What is the interest rate charge for the ESP Loan?
Currently, the interest rate for ESP loans is calculated to be 95% of the U.S. Treasury Bill. For those who choose to go on a payment plan to repay the loan, a statement is sent out once a year for payment for 10 years until the loan is fulfilled.

Will this loan show as a lien against my property?
Yes. A lien will be filed by the City and placed on your property’s title. This means that if you sell your home, the loan will have to be repaid in full at that time. Your title or escrow company will contact the City to get the full payoff amount and work with you to complete the transaction.

If the main sewer line is owned and maintained by the City, why do property owners have to pay for it? Why isn't sewer considered to be part of the infrastructure like streets and be paid from our property taxes?
According to Washington State law, city-operated utilities, such as water and sewer, are budgeted separately from the city’s general fund. Current sewer fees are paid by current sewer users, or ratepayers, and those funds are to be used for operation, maintenance, and replacement of the current sewer system only. No sewer construction or operation is funded by property taxes.

Will I be assessed for ESP costs if it goes by my house but I don’t hook up?
Yes, but repayment is only required after 1) hook up; 2) sale of house; 3) lapse of 10 years since construction.

Why the initial Sewer Capital Facilities Charge (CFC) when there are monthly dues for sewer maintenance?
The one time CFC goes towards the cost of the existing sewer facilities (pump stations, transmission lines) that current ratepayers have previously funded. CFCs essentially allow new users to "pay into" the system and gain equity with ratepayers.

When will construction begin?
Construction generally begins in mid Summer.  Length of construction is dependent on program size, and has been 80-90 days in length in the past for the entire program, with 2-3 weeks in each area being average.

Title VI:  It is the City of Kirkland’s policy to ensure full compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by prohibiting discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex in the provision of benefits and services under any programs and activities. Any person who believes his/her Title VI protection has been violated, may file a complaint with the City of Kirkland.  For questions regarding Kirkland’s Title VI Program, or to file a complaint with the City of Kirkland, please contact the Title VI Coordinator at 425-587-3875 or

 Alternate Formats: Persons with disabilities may request materials in alternative formats — please contact the Title VI Coordinator at 425-587-3875 or Persons with hearing impairments may access the Washington State Telecommunications Relay Service at 711.

Public Works
Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
123 5th Avenue, Kirkland WA 98033
Operations & Maintenance
Mon-Fri, 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
915 8th St, Kirkland WA 98033

General Inquiries

Engineering: T. 425.587.3800 | F. 425.587.3807
Operations & Maintenance: T. 425.587.3900 | F. 425.587.3902