Kapowsin Water District Receivership

Pierce County was court-appointed as the receiver of the Kapowsin Water District (KWD) on November 29, 2017. A failed water transmission line required the trucking of water to the 40 residential customers of the water system while repairs were made. Pierce County is obligated to provide a reliable water supply for KWD and to recover costs incurred to do so. Grants have been pursued to reduce costs passed on to KWD customers for the new well.  

2019 Special Assessment

Maintenance and operation of KWD ran a deficit 2017-2018. Beginning June, 1, 2019, each connection will be charged a special assessment to recover the costs. Information about this special assessment was shared at a public meeting for KWD customers held May 8, 2019. 

The special assessment recoups maintenance and operations costs from November 2017-November 2018. The special assessment does not pay for improvements to provide a long-term reliable water source for KWD customers.

Receivership Updates

  1. 2019
  2. 2018
December 19
  • We are in the final stages of securing the construction contract agreement with Tacoma Pump & Drilling Co. Inc. to drill the well. The project should start Jan – March 2020.  View the project page for more information.
  • Field staff found a leak on the two-inch pvc pipe (from the raw water tank) entering the side of the booster pump building. The concrete around the pipe was dug up. The pipe was realigned and repaired.
  • Valley Water District staff will be reading meters in January to collect data for upcoming DOH required water use reports.
September 30
  • Washington State Department of Health (DOH) regulations require periodic sanitary survey inspections on drinking water systems and are used to identify conditions that may present a sanitary or public health risk. A sanitary survey includes water system facilities, operations practices and standards. Washington state drinking water rules require all Group A public drinking water systems to have a routine sanitary survey once every three to five years. The Kapowsin Water District water system received a DOH Sanitary Survey on September 30. Based on the survey results, the following repairs were made:
    • Installation of a new screen on the tank air vent.
    • Cutting and capping of all piping connections to the obsolete filtration system.
    • Installation of foam seal on cast iron manhole access to storage tank.
    • pH calibration solution dated.
    • Draining of water from pipe chamber and leak detection.  No leaks from piping or pipe penetrations were found but monitoring of these components will continue. 
August 16
  • A single bid was submitted for the well drilling project. The bid was not a full submission and therefore was deemed "non responsive." 
  • We are assessing next steps with the bid package and will re-advertise for new bids.
July 28
  • Washington State Department of Health and Pierce County provided a status update to the Pierce County Superior Court regarding the KWD Receivership. 
  • The judge scheduled the next status update for June 26, 2020.
July 25
  • Pierce County staff met with Valley Water District and Washington Department of Health staff to discuss next steps related to the receivership process and well drilling project.
July 8
  • Valley Water District is reading water meters July 7-13 to comply with Washington State regulations. 
  • Future readings for this purpose will occur October 2019, then annually in January.
May 8
  • Received Washington State Department of Health grant contract for $500,000. The contract is now being routed for signatures at Pierce County offices.
  • Public meeting with KWD customers at Kapowsin Elementary School to share details of special assessment.
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.
Jan 4

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. The court order requires Pierce County to pursue a new well as a long term potable 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 40 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?
Original surface water source has been repaired and is currently providing water until a new well source is developed and fully operational.

Who is maintaining the water system?
Pierce County is under contract with Valley Water District to manage the Kapowsin water system during receivership. 

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, 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 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 permit category. The Kapowsin system is currently in the blue permit 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.

Is there a Pierce County water bill reduction program for seniors or disabled persons? 
No program currently exists in Pierce County that would reduce water bills for seniors or disabled persons. The Water Assistance Program from Living Access Support Alliance may be able to help people who are at risk of having water shut off to their homes due to missed payments.

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 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 maintenance, operations and 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.
  • DOH and the County will provide the court with status updates and a final 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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