Kapowsin Water District Receivership

What's New

Project update
  • 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.

Important Notice
  • The Kapowsin Water District source water transmission line was repaired this morning.  Valley Water District staff found the cause of the blockage at the source meter feeding into the Raw Water Storage Tank.  There was a significant amount of debris clogging the filter screen.  Water Buffalo Inc. brought in 3 truckloads of potable water to get the finished storage tank full, ensuring customers remained with water, and time to allow the Raw Water Storage Tank to refill.  Valley Water District will be placing a “Y” filter at the Spring collection site that should keep debris from making its way into the transmission line.  Thanks to Valley Water District staff for identifying the issue and promptly getting the water source back to operational!
  • On Sunday, December 16th, a Valley Water District employee observed the  Booster Station storage tank was low while doing their weekend system checks. He then checked the Spring Site tank and found it empty with no water flowing into it. It is likely the problem is another obstruction or break in the transmission main.  Valley Water District is in the process of investigating, and Water Buffalo started trucking water beginning this morning (Monday 12/17/18). We do not anticipate the system running out of water.
    This site will be kept up to date with the most current information. 

Project update
  • We have completed the engineering design and construction bid package for the new groundwater well and received a letter of conditional approval from USDA-RD on October 22, 2018.  The well project is now on hold pending federal and state funder approval of the Environmental Review process. We received the Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the USDA-RD on October 12, 2018.  The publication of this on November 14, 2018 completes the environmental review process for the federal grant application
    (click here to review).
  • We are working with the funding agencies to obtain final approval for the grant applications. Once this approval is received we can work on finalizing the grant contracts.
  • We provided public notice for the water right application (click here to review). The 30 day comment period expired on October 25,  2018.  No comments were submitted on this project.
  • Valley Water District completed repairs to several leaks in PVC piping inside the Kapowsin Booster Station
    (click here to view the leak, and here to see the repair) and installed a new Spring Pump check valve (click here to view a picture).

Project update
  • We are working on finalizing the Department of Ecology Cost Reimbursement Agreement for processing the water right application.
  • We received well drilling approval from the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) on 8/3/18.
  • We are working with the funding agencies on requirements to finalize the two grant applications; including discussions on State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements.
  • We met with the Muckleshoot Tribe on 8/16/18 to discuss the new well project and water rights transfer from a surface water right to groundwater right. 
  • We are negotiating land acquisition from Tacoma Public Utilities for the new well site.
  • We have almost completed well design and bid specifications and anticipate sending this to the funders for review in early September and going out to bid in early October.
  • We are still working on preparing new water utility administrative regulations.
  • Graham Fire and Rescue installed a new Knox Box to facilitate quicker entry to the fire pump system.  

New Well Source
  • Our consultant is developing the drilling specifications for the new well and we are targeting August or early September to go out for bid. We are in negotiations with Tacoma Public Utilities on acquiring the right of entry to drill the new well on the property where the Water Treatment Building is located. This site reduces the distance needed between the well and treatment location but requires Tacoma Pierce County Health Department approval of a variance to the wellhead protection radius area from 100’ down to 75’. 
  • An application was submitted to WA Department of Ecology for new groundwater rights to go with the new well.  DOE has provided us a checklist of the items needed to address in the well drilling project.
  • We met with our Tribal Relations Manager regarding Government to Government relations on the new well project. Information was provided on this project.
  • We applied for additional funding from the WA Department of Health Emergency Grant.  The application has been received by DOH and is in the process of being reviewed.  DOH expects to issue a decision about awarding this grant in a few months.
Fire System
  • We met with Graham Fire & Rescue and the Pierce County Fire Marshal regarding the Kapowsin Water District fire system.  We evaluated how much flow could be taken from the water system without any negative impacts to the drinking water supply. The engine driven fire pump was tested and functions properly. The hydrant at the end of 296th was used to flush the line.  After running the pump and flushing until the water was clear, all bags were removed from the hydrants in the system except for the damaged hydrant on the east end of Griggs Rd. Valley is exercising each hydrant just to be certain they function properly.
  • We evaluated the potential to make automations to the fire pump system, but it is too costly right now. We are exploring additional grant opportunities to help pay for fire system upgrades.
Maintenance & Operations:
  • Valley Water District mailed a copy of the Annual Customer Report to each customer and submitted the required annual DOH report (you can view the report here). You can also view the report for Rainer View Water Company which is the water used for trucking while the transmission line was broken here.
  • We met with DOH regarding water quality sampling at KWD.  We then authorized Valley Water District to install one distribution sampling station so that they have a water quality withdrawal point that is not subject to contamination (click here to view a picture).
  • There was a break in the valve that brings the raw water into the water treatment plant (click here to view a picture). VWD made emergency repairs and we have authorized VWD to replace these plastic fittings with new ductile iron components that will be less susceptible to breaking under the pressure flowing through this point.  


Many thanks to those able to attend the community meeting last night. Click the links below so see the handouts and meeting minutes from last nights meeting.  Meeting handout 1Meeting handout 2 — Meeting minutes 5/2/18.

Community Meeting—May 2, 2018 (Wednesday) 
7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Kapowsin Elementary (Multipurpose/Commons) 10412 264th St. E., Graham, WA  click here to view flyer


A community meeting is planned to discuss the Kapowsin water system and bring customers up to date on the this ongoing project to provide a long-term more sustainable solution of a new groundwater source. Flyers have been sent to customer's homes and you can view the flyer by clicking on the above link.


Testing results of the drinking water was received and residents are no longer on a boil water advisory.


Pierce  County Sewer Division maintenance and operations staff located and repaired the break in the surface water source transmission line. Valley Water District, the system operator, will perform start up procedures, do water quality sampling, and make sure the plant is operating properly. Valley hopes to have the spring source back on line Monday morning, March 19, 2018. 

Boil Water Advisory

Beginning Monday, March 19, and until further notice, you are advised to boil water for 1 minute at a rolling boil then let the water cool before using.  This Boil Water Advisory is in place until Valley Water District is confident the distribution system and treatment plant are working properly. This advisory is a precaution and is being issued for your protection. Please contact your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms:  nausea, cramps, diarrhea, jaundice, headache and/or fatigue.  People with chronic illnesses, infants and the elderly may be at a higher risk and should seek medical advice.

 If you have additional questions regarding this matter please contact Sean Vance or Brian Thompson at VWD at 253-841-9698.


We are making progress on funding sources. On February 6, 2018 Pierce County received a letter from USDA-Rural Development indicating the application for the $500,000 emergency grant for Kapowsin Water District receivership was approved and funds have been set aside for the new well project. Pierce County also submitted grant applications with both WA Department of Health (State Revolving Fund-emergency funding) and Pierce County Human Services (Community Development Block Grant).

Pierce County met with their engineering consultant who is preparing the scope, schedule and budget for the Kapowsin project which includes a new groundwater source. We continue to investigate the feasibility of repairing the broken transmission line, however, for now we continue trucking in water and rates remain at $150/month. 

In mid-February, Graham Fire and Rescue requested the County to place a bag over the fire hydrants in the water district while they are inoperable. The fire hydrants will remain bagged until the fire flow system is fully operational.
Pierce County plans to provide a more formal status update to the KWD customers in late March or early April. In the meantime, check here for updated information.


Valley Water District filed a Creditor’s Proof of Claim against Kapowsin Water District in Pierce County Superior Court on January 10, 2018 in the amount of $87,627.03.  This claim will be addressed as part of the receivership process. 

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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