District halts plan for forest spraying

By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald

The White River School District will not approve an agreement that would have allowed Northwest Cascade to spray lime-stabilized septage to its 3,000-acre tree farm on land outside Carbonado and Wilkeson.

Superintendent Tom Lockyer made the announcement at the White River School Board's regular meeting Dec. 12. The decision was based on a Dec. 5 letter issued by the state Department of Health and sent to Brad Harp of the Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health.

It said, “It appears that the area of proposed application is within the watershed from which the Town of Carbonado draws its potable water supply - no-name Creek and various spring sources. The creek and springs are directly susceptible to runoff with the watershed. It is likely that lime-stabilized septage contains disease-causing organisms that can make people sick. It is also likely that application of lime-stabilized septage within the watershed significantly increases the risk of waterbourne disease. The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends that the proposal be denied.”

Lockyer and Assistant Superintendent Roger Marlow acknowledged the septage project has been both complicated and controversial project since it was first announced in August, but the department of health letter was all the district needed to halt the proposal.

“We've said all along if the county or state said we shouldn't do it, then we wouldn't do it,” Marlow said.

“We have shared multiple times that if any county or state agency indicated this proposal is not safe or appropriate, we will withdraw our support for the project,” Lockyer reiterated in his reading to the board.

Lockyer said the district will be notifying Northwest Cascade and various county and state agencies that it is withdrawing its interest in pursuing the project.

The announcement came to the relief of several Carbonado protesters in the audience like Jill Cartwright of the Friends of the Carbon Canyon, Carbonado City Councilman Ben Burbank and Carbonado-area citizen Danny White.

Cartwright said she was thrilled to have stopped the spraying of septage in her neighborhood, but was concerned it may happen in someone else's backyard. She plans to use the knowledge and connections she's made to continue the fight against spraying sewage on public lands.

She said it was a great example of how a community can come together, expose the truth and say no, this is not happening.

Burbank extended a hand to the district from the community of Carbonado, hoping to quell the uneasiness that has developed between the town and the district.

White thanked the board, saying he knows it was a difficult decision for the board to turn down the revenue.

“It's not just he right decision, or a good decision, but a wise decision,” White said.

The fiscally-strapped White River School District could have received $50,000 to $60,000 a year from Northwest Cascade for the application. Marlow said the district was in a contract it could “easily get out of” with the company.

He said the district will continue with its long-term plans for the property, which is to continue the tree farm operation. He anticipates the district will begin a thinning process on parts of the stand in the near future.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at

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