Post Point Wastewater Resource Recovery

​​​The Post Point Resource Recovery project is a defining opportunity for Bellingham to implement its 2018 Climate Action Plan and reduce sewer utility carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 60-80%.

We are designing future improvements at the Post Point Resource Recovery Plant (Post Point). These improvements are needed because equipment is aging, expensive to repair, and incinerates (burns) rather than recovers resources.  

Earlier planning phases of the project collected feedback through community workshops. We are replacing the facility’s incineration system with a digestion process that transforms wastewater solids into two beneficial and safe reusable resources: biosolids and biogas. 

Once built and operational, the solid waste system at Post Point will be a process that protects public health, safety and natural resources while continuing to meet demand for efficient, quality service essential for a growing, diverse community.

Announcements – Updated December 2021

City Council Meeting: On July 26, 2021, the project team discussed the Post Point Resource Recovery project and emerging contaminants of concern. View the presentations or the full video stream on the council webpage. As a follow-up to this conversation with City Council, the project team will conduct testing to try to better understand levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS in the city’s wastewater. Staff will also take a look at the cost and availability of testing for emerging contaminants of concern and will report their findings back to City Council.

Testing results: On November 30, 2021, the final testing results of PFAS and other chemicals in the city’s wastewater were made available. The complete technical reports are posted below as well as the simplified summary.

PFAS Chemical Action Plan: In November 2021, the Washington Departments of Ecology and Health released a Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Chemical Action Plan (PDF) that addresses recommended actions to address PFAS in the environment and the resulting human health impacts. Appendix 8 addresses PFAS in biosolids.

Updated project FAQ:  Have questions about the project or want to read more about PFAs? Check out our updated project FAQ (PDF).

Engage Bellingham: We want to hear from you! Check out the Resource Recovery page on our Engage Bellingham website to share your feedback with us through a survey and learn more.

New video: Watch our new short video below to learn more about the project.

Post Point Resource Recovery Project video. Published April 23, 2021.

Project Information

Biosolids are clean and safe nutrient-rich organic matter recovered from sewage through the wastewater treatment process. Biosolids are a sustainable and safe way to reuse our resources to support agriculture, forestry, and local gardening.

Biosolids Video

Post Point Demonstration Garden

Fenced-in garden with raised beds full of growing plants.
To show what biosolids can do for our community, we built a demonstration garden at the Post Point Facility.

The Post Point facility has been in operation for nearly 45 years and carries out two essential and related treatment processes: liquids and solids. In 2009, the City identified in the Comprehensive Sewer Plan a need for additional wastewater capacity at the Post Point Plant.

In 2014, the City completed major upgrades to the liquid treatment process to improve performance, meet current regulations, and increase capacity for the future. As part of that project, future upgrades to the solids treatment process were planned. Wastewater solids are currently incinerated (burned) at Post Point, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) CO2 and other contaminants into the air. Incineration uses equipment installed in the 1970s that is very expensive to maintain and repair, extremely difficult to permit, and burns rather than recovers resources.

In 2017, planning work was resumed to determine the best way to update the solids treatment process. The City used an evaluation process that looked at several options and measured the environmental, social, financial, and technical benefits of each option. After gathering input from the community on the options and the evaluation, the City has decided to implement a digestion-based solution. Digestion essentially replicates what your stomach does to food, using microbes and heat to break down solids to produce biosolids and biogas. The biosolids will be treated to meet the highest standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency so they can be used to create a soil additive, like a fertilizer, for the community’s use.

Our current solids process, in use since 1972, is changing. The new process uses solids digestion instead of incineration.

Project planning began in 2017 with a series of community workshops and is expected to be complete with a fully operational biosolids facility by the end of 2025.

What’s happening now

  • The City has decided on the digestion process to produce biosolids and biogas from wastewater solids.
  • Facility design, including both architectural and the operational layout of the new buildings.
  • We will be reaching out to the community to gather thoughts and feedback on elements of the project sometime this year.
Resource Recovery project tentative schedule: 2019-2021 is planning, 2021-2022 is design, 2023-2025 is construction with project completion anticipated for the end of 2025.

*Schedule updated as of October 2021 and is approximate.

In 2007, the City of Bellingham wrote the City’s first Climate Action Plan to begin reducing climate impacts caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, the City, with support from the community, has integrated programs and taken actions to achieve their carbon reduction goals. In 2009, the City outlined the Legacies and Strategic Commitments to draw specific correlations and ensure accountability. In 2018, the City’s Climate Action Plan was updated with data collected on emissions from municipal sources to track the City’s progress. 

From 2000 to 2015, the City  exceeded some of the goals set in 2012 and reduced municipal emissions by 68.3%! We are on the right track toward building a greener and more sustainable future, but there is still plenty of work to do and significant investments will be required.

The resource recovery solution for wastewater solids will minimize the social impacts of handling biosolids while supporting the core values of Bellingham residents via a “Triple Bottom Line Plus” (fiscal, environmental, technical, socially sustainable) assessment. Below outlines some of the values from the updated 2018 Climate Action Plan outlined in the Post Point Resource Recovery Project.

The Post Point Resource Recovery project supports the City's 2018 Climate Action Plan by recovering resources, producing renewable energy, and responsibly using land.

The current project cost estimate is over $200 million (taking into account inflation through 2023). A rate study is currently being conducted to determine the needed increases for the project. If the upgrade is paid for using only City revenue, the average rate impact is estimated to between $30-$35/month per household. The exact rate impacts over time will be developed later in the project as construction costs can change as design develops. We will share rate, cost estimate, and funding information with the community and City Council as we develop them through the project.

Update July 2021: Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Action (WIFIA) Letter of Interest submitted

A letter of interest was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to request a low interest rate loan of up to $136 million for financial support of the Post Point Resource Recovery project. Loans such as this would help reduce the financial impacts on rate payers.

To learn more about how your sewer and wastewater treatment system works in the City of Bellingham, watch the short videos below:

City of Bellingham Public Works: Sewers Video

City of Bellingham Public Works: Wastewater Treatment Plant Video

Stay Informed and Contact Us

There are several ways to stay informed about this project:

We will share information about upcoming community group briefings here and on our Engage Bellingham site. Meetings may be online or in person depending on the current COVID-19 status.

Project Contact
For more information, please email ResourceRecovery@cob.org.

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