By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We have found The Hum.”
So began Highland Park Action Committee co-chair Carolyn Stauffer, opening tonight’s HPAC meeting – and drawing cheers.
(If you don’t know why she said that – read this story first.)
There also was applause for Jonathan Hall from Lafarge, as Carolyn reiterated that the previous evening’s “reconnaissance mission” clarified that the plant was not the source of the persistent noise. Kay Kirkpatrick, who had first sleuthed “The Hum” in early September and was part of last night’s “mission,” stood up and reiterated her appreciation for Lafarge’s interest in community cooperation.
After reconfirming this morning that the sound traces to a ship-offloading operation at the CalPortland dock on the Duwamish River, Carolyn said, she went there, young children in tow, in hopes of talking to them about what had been discovered.
“A really intensive shop-vac” is how she described the equipment that seems to be the noise, and “they do it 24/7 until the ship is emptied out.” She recapped reporting The Hum to the city weeks ago and getting unrealistic responses, then forgetting about it until WSB reports and comments earlier this month revealed how many people were being affected.
“We have sourced it – so the question is what do we do from here?” Carolyn said. She’s in contact with the city, and pointed out that Julie Schickling – who recorded it earlier this month (here’s the WSB story with her original audio clip) – got it at 62 decibels, from her home, at 4:30 this morning. 50 decibels, Carolyn said, is the limit for the industrial zone. However, she said, they’re having trouble getting the city to come record it since they only work morning to mid-afternoon.
Carolyn also sent a copy of the crowd-sourced Google Map created by a WSB reader to the CalPortland manager with whom she spoke. Co-chair Billy Stauffer then said they received a statement just before the meeting, saying CalPortland thanks the community for pointing out the problem, and “they will do everything they can to work with us.” Carolyn added, “The ball is rolling and it’s just a matter of time.” Here’s the statement, from CP’s Steve Penswick:
We learned for the first time today that our operation is a suspected source of the West Seattle Hum. We have begun investigating the situation to confirm these suspicions. We will cooperate with the community and local agencies to take appropriate steps to address the community’s concerns.
“So much for the fish,” somebody cracks from the audience, drawing laughter, as Carolyn removes the microphone that the KING 5 TV crew had asked her to wear.
Meantime, The Hum continued, audible right outside the building – Billy said they had relatives visiting and while the subject hadn’t come up, they stopped and said – “What is that NOISE?”
Several attendees told their stories too of being troubled by the sound, but expressed hope that tracing the source was a great first start.
Two other big topics at the meeting – coverage ahead, starting with Nickelsville, which HPAC has been talking about for months:
NICKELSVILLE: The camp housing otherwise-homeless people has been back on the southeastern edge of Highland Park for almost a year and a half now. Carolyn Stauffer said there was hope it wouldn’t be there much longer.
She started by saying that HPAC had received more than 160 responses to a survey sent out over the summer, and that she is very proud of the community for the way they answered the questions with “very few NIMBY responses …” She said “kind, compassionate, experienced-based responses” dominated, adding, “I was proud to go to the city with these comments and say, These are my neighbors, and these are their concerns.”
“The takeaway message we got from that survey is that people are ready for Nickelsville to move,” she summarized – within six months. Another takeaway message: The West Duwamish Greenbelt has a lot of problems with transients, as does the area off SW Othello from Highland Park Way. Metro drivers also have to be given a way to deal with riders who have no fare, she added.
They met with city reps and homeless advocates to discuss this, she said, because the mayor’s office had come up with some legislation regarding possibly legalizing encampments. But none of the advocates liked the proposed ordinance, she said, so Councilmember Nick Licata took on the issue of whether to advance it. She says he is reworking it. She said one good point about it: Six months max at a location, and access to basic services such as water. “It’s in Nick Licata’s hands now to re-look at it,” she said. She added that Nickelsville reps told her – reiterating this in writing – that they were willing to move, and have been looking at other sites. But they would need the city, with community members’ help, to come up with an appropriate site.
The offices of the mayor and Licata committed recently, Carolyn said, to find a new Nickelsville site. No timetable was mentioned, though.
COMBINED SEWER OVERFLOWS: Seattle Public Utilities‘ Tim Croll, who briefed the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council about the upcoming Longfellow Creek projects one week ago tonight (WSB coverage here), was at HPAC to provide “our own private briefing,” as Carolyn Stauffer said while introducing him. He explained the overflows into Longfellow Creek, and the fact that measures taken years ago turned out to not be enough to control those overflows when heavy rain overwhelms the system.
As he had explained at DNDC, SPU explained the steps they plan to take – starting with some retrofitting and upgrades for the existing processing/storage equipment. “We’ll take that as far as it goes,” said Croll, to find out how much that will cut down on the overflows.
Then, they’re looking at “Roadside Raingardens” to divert some of the water from ever getting into the system in the first place. They’ll be doing studies “over the next couple of years” to find potentially promising places for those facilities. That may solve the problem, but if it doesn’t, they will have to find a location from another storage tank – possibly millions of gallons. Right now, there’s a 1.6-million-gallon storage tank at Delridge and Orchard, near Home Depot, for example, and another tank by Westwood Village. They’re marked on this SPU map:
(Click image to see larger version as PDF)
They’re the two biggest tanks in the city, another SPU rep said, which means this is a bigger retrofit project than anywhere else.
To get it all under control will take half a billion dollars and 20 or 30 years, Croll acknowledged in response to a question about how much it will cost and how long it will take.
The question came up again: How are you reaching the diverse communities in this area? SPU said that their survey will be available in multiple languages, but they are also reaching out to community groups that can help them extend their reach. Group members informed them of the White Center Community Development Association‘s potential to help in this area.
Another question – what about the Ballard “Roadside Raingardens” problems? Croll recapped lessons they’d learned, including “slow down, talk to the community, get all the scientific information …”
You can find out a lot more about this at the meeting next week, October 4th at the Salvation Army Center, 9050 16th SW, 6-8 pm. And there’s an overview of the situation on this city webpage.
OTHER NOTES: The P-Patch at Westcrest is almost finished; work parties are coming up 1-4 pm on October 6th and 13th … Spray Park bids all came in too high and “Parks is trying to figure out what to do” … Another Opportunity Fund grant is being sought in the current round of Parks and Green Spaces Levy funding applications, to improve access to the park … Traffic-calming and safety measures have been completed, including a new crosswalk on Holden, new ones by the nearby elementary school, and speed bumps on 10th, and there will be a ribbon-cutting next Wednesday with the mayor on hand – meet up with the mayor, students, and community members at 8 am October 3rd, 11th and Holden, to walk to school.
HIGHLAND PARK IMPROVEMENT CLUB NEWS: The Corner Bar is coming up again Friday of next week (October 5th) … Then on Saturday 10/13, it’s the annual Harvest Dinner (find out more on the HPIC website), including this time a Talent Show (talent is being sought!), and it’s also a donation collection for the Food Bank … October’s Movie Night is coming up on the 3rd Friday of the month … They’ll have a Holiday Bazaar on December 8th – Highland Park Elementary is not having one this year, Julie Schickling announced, so its past organizer is working on the one at HPIC.
COYOTE CONCERNS: One attendee says she believes coyotes are living near two vacant houses in the 13th and Cloverdale vicinity.
Highland Park Action Committee usually meets the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7 pm meeting after 6:30 pm potluck, at HP Improvement Club, 12th and Holden.