A view from Discovery Park in Seattle, where the West Point Treatment Plant is located. In July, the plant dumped 2.1 million gallons of wastewater into Puget Sound. Joe Mabel/Wikimedia

A view from Discovery Park in Seattle, where the West Point Treatment Plant is located. In July, the plant dumped 2.1 million gallons of wastewater into Puget Sound. Joe Mabel/Wikimedia

West Point Treatment Plant report due in January

The report will look at ways to keep adequate power flowing to the plant after a July spill.

On July 19, a minor power hiccup shut down stormwater pumps at the West Point Treatment Plant, sending 2.1 million gallons of water and sewage spilling into Puget Sound. King County and Seattle City Light are working together to understand how to prevent future releases.

Power to the plant remained on, but for less than a second, it was providing less power than was required by several of the plant’s pumps. In the aftermath of the spill, the county reviewed the situation and has turned its attention to figuring out ways to prevent future situations, said Christie True, director of the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

“We do believe our employees followed the protocols as they should have to prevent flooding,” True said during an Oct. 21 briefing of the county’s Board of Health.

Around 1 a.m. July 19, the power fluctuated and shut off pumps at the treatment plant, located next to Discovery Park in Seattle. This caused operators to open emergency bypasses around 1:38 a.m., which sent the 2.1 million gallons of water into Puget Sound. Roughly 80% was stormwater and the rest was sewage. Around 30 minutes later, the pumps were operating at full capacity again and the overflow was closed.

On that day, the plant was treating some 300 million gallons of water, around six times what it would normally treat during that point on a regular summer day. And while 2.1 million gallons is a large spill, it was dwarfed by a 2017 disaster that flooded the plant, reduced service for three months — and dumped 235 million gallons of wastewater into Puget Sound.

According to the county, the plant treats wastewater from homes and businesses in Seattle as well as north King County and parts of south Snohomish County.

Mike Haynes, Seattle City Light’s COO, said they were working with the county to figure out ways to better understand the effects of power disruption to the plant.

“We’re never going to eliminate the risks of power dips or outages,” he said.

Recommendations are being developed by a consultant for the treatment plant. The report is due by January.

King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles asked whether backup generators at the plant could prevent similar situations in the future.

However, Christie True of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks said the plant would require a large generator capable of providing 10 megawatts of energy. Additionally, there would still be time needed to switch from system power to generators, which would still shut down pumps.

Following the July dump, the county monitored water quality surrounding Discovery Park and shut down several beaches. All three consecutive days met water quality standards, and the beaches were later opened. True said there wasn’t as much concern about exposing people to potentially toxic materials at West Point because it empties into Puget Sound. Shellfish in the area are also regularly tested for toxins.

True said following the 2017 spill, the county implemented a number of improvements, including improving its control systems, updating emergency protocols and providing more employee training. The Washington State Department of Ecology that year fined King County $361,000 and ordered the county to make more than $1 million in investments to improve the condition of the plant.

More in Northwest

King County, Seattle, transit agencies and others join in lawsuit against I-976

A lawsuit filed by plaintiffs across Washington claims I-976 is a “poorly… Continue reading

Political activist Tim Eyman campaigns for Initiative 976 on Nov. 5 in downtown Bellevue. The initiative promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. Photo by Aaron Kunkler
Election analysis: I-976 vote casts South King County against Seattle, Eastside

Preliminary precinct counts show support for the initiative split by region.

State AG Ferguson issues statement on DACA argument before U.S. Supreme Court

Trump administration wants to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

A King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity. Photo courtesy of the state Attorney General’s office
Judge rules Value Village deceived customers

The King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity.

Constantine outlines I-976 impacts to King County, Metro

Asks King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to prepare lawsuit to challenge measure

Gov. Inslee welcomes refugee resettlement in Washington

‘We are honored to remain a place of safety and security for those fleeing persecution and violence’

Vehicles passing through flooded street. File photo
King County Flood Control District to vote on 2020 budget

The budget will fund a variety of programs across the county.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.