Ahhhh, the aroma of Tacoma.
Drivers cruising I-5 near the Puyallup River with the windows down these days get an eyebrow-singing blast of rotten eggs and ammonia.
A belching pulp mill on the shore of Commencement Bay is usually blamed for the town’s distinctive perfume. But the latest stench is something else altogether.
During a recent stretch of hot, still weather, the city’s public works department began cleaning out the tanks of Tacoma’s sewage treatment plant. The six-week project involves pumping the contents of the tanks into an open lagoon about half the size of a football field while the tanks are washed.
An old tank that hadn’t been used since 1982 was also opened. And it wasn’t empty. “It smelled like rotting garbage. It was pretty bad,” said David Hufford, public works division manager for the city.
Hufford knows bad. There used to be a rendering plant right across the street from the sewage treatment plant. “It smelled even worse then.”
Chunks of animals in various states of decay were loaded by conveyor belt into big vats at the plant and boiled for hours. “Sometimes it smelled like hot dogs, and sometimes it smelled like cattle.”
Walk a dog in the park in Spokane without a leash and you might get a dirty look. Do it in Seattle and you could get a $50 ticket. Do it again and it’s $65. The third strike will cost you $75.
And enforcement is no academic possibility. Seattle increased its animal-control cops in 1994, charged in part with enforcing the leash law.
This being Seattle, a protest group was formed, called COLA, for Citizens for Off-Leash Areas. Two years of public meetings, workshops, and environmental impact statements later, the City Council may soon adopt an ordinance to create off-leash dog parks in Seattle.
Pilot dog parks used for the past two years have proved a hit with dog owners, with as many as 200 dogs a day frolicking in the most popular spots.
“We thought mowing would be an issue,” said Dewey Potter of the city parks department. But with so many pounding paws, “the grass was gone in minutes.”
If the City Council establishes off-leash parks permanently, a budget of more than $160,000 a year will be needed to scoop the poop and keep down the dust and the mud, parks officials say.
Once they become official off-leash areas, parks tend to be unattractive for any other use, Potter said.
But for dog lovers, the leash-free zones offer the best chance in the city for unfettered fun.
Even though Spokane also has a leash law, special dog parks have never been seriously considered, said Tony Madunich with the parks department. Live and let live works most of the time. “The unpleasant side of the dog issue is the messes they leave behind. It’s very much an issue on a soccer field, for instance.
“But we haven’t reached a critical stage yet. We’re at the point where everyone can still get along.”
Initiative battle escalates
The battle over I-677, the workplace discrimination initiative, is heating up.
Opponents are calling a news conference in Seattle on Wednesday featuring black preachers and civil rights leaders expected to trash the initiative as offensive and unnecessary.
The initiative would ban discrimination in the workplace against gay people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
NOPE, the opposition campaign, will present Alveda King, niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Seattle to speak out against the initiative, according to Cathy Mickels, a West Side conservative activist.
Hands Off Washington, the group backing the initiative, will counter with a news conference of its own that same day.
Critics of I-677 will argue it’s wrong to equate sexual orientation with immutable characteristics, such as race, Mickels said. Jan Bianchi, executive director of Hands Off, counters that the state civil rights law already protects people against discrimination for other choices, including marital status or religion.
The initiative will be on the ballot statewide in November.
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