King County’s West Point wastewater treatment plant is finally seeing a reprieve after several weeks of heavy rainfall. As of Friday, King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division reported that due to light expected precipitation, they are not anticipating any need for emergency wastewater bypasses of the diluted stormwater in the near term.
This comes after over 250 million gallons of water was released into Puget Sound on February 9th and the treatment plant was forced to continue bypassing some minimally treated wastewater into the Sound until about February 20th. The reason for the continued bypasses was due to catastrophic flooding within the plant, resulting in a complete shutdown and millions of dollars of damage to electrical equipment.
The alarming and historic wastewater releases has created an outpour from clean water activists from Western Washington. According to King5 News who spoke with Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance executive director, he said, “This is our waste. We have a responsibility to keep this water clean.”
"There's a broader risk here. The amount of nutrients being discharged that could affect algal blooms in the coming summer," he said. "You have to remember this is more than human waste and shower and sink waste. It's also industrial waste in it and other chemicals that we're trying to treat and keep out of the environment. What is the long-term fate of those chemicals?"
There is a concern because the outfall into the Puget Sound is less than a mile from the shore and Discovery Park, where the plant is located, is busy with fishing and crabbing boats, not to mention marine life, hikers, and tourists. Now when park visitors hike down to the shoreline, they are greeted with signs that the water is not safe and contaminated.
Because wastewater is still not going through the secondary decontamination phase, the Department of Ecology will continue to issue fines, as King County is in violation of wastewater release permits. As of Friday night, King County Wastewater Treatment Division gave the following update:
• The lowest below-grade levels of the treatment plant required significant additional cleaning and sanitizing, and plant restoration leaders are adding more crew members to complete this work as soon as possible.
• Two teams of eight mechanics each are working at rehabilitating motors and pumps throughout the treatment plant. Motor replacement installation is currently at 85 percent.
• Electrical demolition and assessment is at 55 percent complete plant-wide. Crews are draining and cleaning conduits throughout the facility, and the temporary heaters and blower systems that have been installed will help expedite this methodical work.
• King County engineers are working on the design and replacement of electrical panels, and consulting engineers are assisting in electrical restoration throughout the plant.
• Heating, ventilation and cooling demolition work continues. Plant restoration leaders noted that these systems sustained significant damage throughout flooded portions of the treatment plant.