It was 2002, and then-King County Executive Ron Sims was on the lookout for a place to build a new treatment plant to handle King County’s increasing volume of sewage. And Edmonds was high on his short list.
The old Union Oil tank farm at Point Edwards seemed the perfect location, directly adjacent to Puget Sound where the treated sewage could be easily discharged.
Outraged, a group of Edmonds citizens banded together to fight the proposal and ensure that Edmonds would not be on the receiving end of King County’s sewage.
“We were aghast that King County would look to us as a location for their plant,” said Tea Party member and former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson. “They wanted to call the shots and shove this project down our throats without even consulting us.”
The members saw this attempt by King County to impose its will as analogous to Great Britain taxing the American colonies who, lacking parliamentary representation, had no say in the matter. Calling themselves the Washington Tea Party (absolutely no connection to the current Tea Party movement), the group took on King County, casting the Brightwater issue as an egregious example of taxation without representation.
But it was more than chanting slogans and carrying signs. Washington Tea Party members spent countless hours attending hearings, drafting comments on Environmental Impact Statements, writing articles, and lobbying officials. And in the end their efforts paid off, when the county backed down and decided to locate the Brightwater Plant in Woodinville.
“I was cleaning out some old stuff in my house,” said long-time Edmonds resident and Washington Tea Party member Barbara Chase, “and I came across our old parade banner, news clippings and other materials from the Brightwater protest. I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this is an important part of Edmonds history’ so I contacted the Edmonds Historical Museum and offered to donate it to the museum collection.”
“I jumped at the chance,” said Museum Director Katie Kelly. “These materials will provide a fantastic window for future generations to look back on this pivotal event in our community’s history and heritage. Edmonds would undoubtedly be a very different place today if the sewage plant had been built here. We owe the Washington Tea Party a huge debt of gratitude.”
To mark the event, Chase rounded up a group of Washington Tea Party members to join in a special presentation event Sunday afternoon at her Edmonds home. It was a grand reunion of a group of citizen activists who banded together 15 years ago to make a difference in the community.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel