Sunday, February 28, 2021

Breaking News! Executive Constantine Declares Emergency for West Point Treatment Plant

King County Executive Dow Constantine Declares Emergency for West Point Treatment Plant Improvements

King County Executive Dow Constantine on February 25th issued an emergency declaration requesting up to $65 million to fund power improvements to the West Point Treatment Plant.

In the past 20 years, the West Point Treatment Plant diverted a highly diluted mixture of stormwater and wastewater into Puget Sound 15 times because Seattle City Light power disruptions caused equipment shutdowns when the plant was operating at or near capacity. More than half of these bypasses – 53 percent – occurred over the past five years.

The work under the emergency declaration will include immediately purchasing services and equipment to provide more reliable power, an evaluation of whether direct high-voltage power will resolve the power outage problems, and modifying on-site power generation and an option to use batteries as other possible solutions.

According to the transmittal letter with the legislation, the reason for the emergency declaration and supplemental funding is in response to the WA Department of Ecology's Administrative Order issued on February 2nd. 

On February 2, 2021, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued Administrative Order 19477 to King County regarding unauthorized bypasses of the secondary treatment system at WPTP between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020 [...]. The DOE Order requires DNRP to complete four corrective actions, which include the submittal of two reports to Ecology, development of a strategic master plan for WPTP’s electrical system by December 31, 2021, and implementation of the corrective actions in the plan by December 31, 2025.

The emergency declaration will be discussed by the King County Council at a future meeting. 

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn issued a statement on February 24th after the Mobility and Environment Committee approved his legislation to require an extensive report and recommendations to prevent future wastewater spills like those on January 13. 

At a $65 million price tag, it will be interesting to see how this reflects on property tax bills in the future. If you live in the service area, I highly suggest you keep posted on future updates and opportunities for public input to see how they choose to resolve these issues and how they will fund the solutions going forward.

When Stormwater Becomes Wastewater

Wastewater, commonly known as sewage, is an entirely different type of flow from stormwater. These flows intersect drastically in Washington's wet winter months, especially in Seattle where stormwater and wastewater were collected together in a combined system which can cause combined system overflows (CSOs). After the 1940s, we learned the importance of constructing separate pipe systems to convey these flows to specifically treat them before release. In fact, stormwater treatment has become its' own science. The legacy systems that remain, primarily in older cities, can create excess flows that overwhelm our wastewater treatment facilities or directly discharge diluted sewage into Puget Sound.

King County runs the regional sewer system that was passed by the public in 1958 which created the wastewater treatment division, which was at that time known as Metro. Building the system took off and was running by the late 1960s. While wastewater treatment and water quality have improved much since then, we still see problems when stormwater inflows to the wastewater system and generates too much inflow. Recent sewer overflows have occurred due to power outages, but the overarching issue from a stormwater perspective is how to reduce the amount of stormwater being sent to our wastewater treatment systems. A map of Seattle's/King County's combined sewer overflow points and their current status can be viewed here. Learn more about CSOs in Seattle here.

King County - Sewage Overflows Increase in Last 5 Years

On February 25th, an unquantified amount of sewage overflowed into Lake Washington due to a power outage at the Kirkland Pump Station. The Kirkland Marina Beach Park was closed and has since reopened after water quality testing confirmed that the water is safe. Sewage overflows and water quality goes hand-in-hand and King County is no stranger to this problem.

Last month, an article from the Kitsap Sun reported on the large overflow released into Puget Sound by the West Point Treatment Plant, 80% of which was comprised of stormwater in January. The overflows were announced by King County's newsroom. The overflows into Puget Sound occurred due to power outages during the early morning on Wednesday, January 13th. All systems were back online within 2 hours, but all told 11 million gallons of untreated wastewater flowed into the Sound. Coincidentally, 11 million gallons was the amount of crude oil that was spilled from the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound in 1989, which was the largest oil spill in the U.S. before it was surpassed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

According to King County, the West Point Treatment Plant treats up to 90 million gallons per day (mgd) during the dry season and up to 300 mgd during the rainy season (for flows exceeding 300 mgd, they treat up to 440 mgd with primary treatment, i.e. solids removal of about 50% of the organic solid waste, and disinfection only). During winter months 53% of flows into West Point are stormwater inflow and groundwater infiltration, while 29% is residential, 17% from businesses, and 1% from industrial processes.

The Kitsap Sun described the concerns of the Suquamish Tribe on the WPTP sewer overflows which is impacting their ability to harvest shellfish. The tribe filed a notice of intent to sue King County in Summer 2020 over the continued sewage overflows. They want to see increased commitment by King County to keep our waters clean in accordance with the Clean Water Act. From the Kitsap Sun:

Said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman at the time in a statement: "We acknowledge that King County has invested and will invest more to improve their wastewater treatment system, but the Suquamish Tribe and its members are frustrated by the ongoing sewage releases and King County’s other pollution violations in Puget Sound, which continue to harm marine water quality and the tribe’s ability to exercise reserved treaty rights and engage in cultural activities. We are running out of time and need swifter action."

It is important to recognize the effort and improvement we have made to treat wastewater and separate stormwater flows since the 1950s. But, more can be done.  

What We Can Do

We can participate in this legislation and focus on reducing stormwater inputs to the system. This includes supporting green infrastructure projects in City infrastructure and on residential lots. The City of Seattle has rebates for installing green stormwater infrastructure like rain barrels, cisterns, or rain gardens. As I have mentioned in other posts, planting trees is always helpful and is a fun way to introduce your kids to stormwater. With Earth Day coming up, it is a great time to start planning these activities now.

See my Resources Page for more information on Green Stormwater Infrastructure.


History of our mission - King County

2021 news releases - King County

11 million gallons of stormwater, sewage flow into Puget Sound from King County plant: - Kitsap Sun

West Point Treatment Plant Process Diagram

Suquamish Tribe files notice of intent to sue King County for ongoing sewage spills – The Suquamish Tribe 

Executive Constantine requests $65 million and signs emergency declaration to protect West Point Treatment Plant from power disruptions - King County

King County - File #: 2021-0116 - West Point Emergency Declaration and 2021-0116 Transmittal Letter.pdf

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

February 26th Toxics Workshop- Setting the Stage

On Friday, February 26th the Puget Sound Partnership will host their second Toxics Workshop focused on identifying red flags and influencing change for improving the health of Puget Sound. The workshop will run from 9 AM - 1 PM, with a Red Flag overview and breakout session starting around 12:15 PM. Red flags previously identified include contamination in the Duwamish, microplastics, PBDEs in juvenile Chinook, marine and freshwater contaminants, PFAS in rivers and lakes, and contaminants of emerging concern, such as tires and air quality impacts from wildfires and transportation.

The keynote speaker is attorney Rob Bilott of Taft Law, who is scheduled to speak at 9:05 AM. Bilott is portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in the film Dark Waters which tells the story of his fight against the DuPont chemical company in West Virginia. Bilott won a $671 million settlement on behalf of over 3,500 plaintiffs over the pollution of the small town's drinking water with PFOA (a manmade chemical which is used in products like stain-resistant carpet, water-repellent clothes, and firefighting foam - it is a type of PFAS) which DuPont allegedly knew was contaminating the water. You can read more about the film and watch the trailer at Dark Waters and the True Story of Lawyer Rob Bilott | Time.

Other speakers include:
  • Heidi Siegelbaum, Washington State University/Washington Stormwater Center
  • Derek Day, Washington State Department of Ecology
  • Robin Gregory, Decision Science and the University of British Columbia
  • Laurie Valeriano, Toxic Free Future
  • Paulina Lopez, Duwamish Clean Up Coalition
  • Sophorn Sim, Refugee Federation Service Center
  • Marie Splaine, Washington State Department of Commerce
This workshop is designed for those involved in areas such as policy, regulatory, consumer campaign, product redesign, pollution prevention, and communications. The workshop will not cover the underlying science, but appears to be focused on influencing behavioral change through problem solving and collaboration tools to positively impact Puget Sound. Part of the discussion will also focus on setting priorities for future workshops.

If you are interested in attending, you can register at: 

Original Post:
February 26th Toxics Workshop- Setting the Stage:

Please join the Stormwater Initiative Lead Team and its speakers and collaborators on February 26th to kick-off our first solutions-oriented workshop to address Toxics in Puget Sound. This will be the first of successive workshops designed to address toxics in Puget Sound. Our first workshop—February 5th—highlighted a series of toxics challenges, that we called ‘red […]

The post February 26th Toxics Workshop- Setting the Stage first appeared on Strategic Initiatives of the Puget Sound National Estuary Program.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Water Quality in Puget Sound - It Starts With You

Puget Sound is the 2nd largest estuary in the United States (Chesapeake Bay is the largest). The Puget Sound drainage basin is 13,700 square miles and includes 13 U.S. counties plus one in Canada. The basin has three physiographic areas including the Olympic Mountains, the Puget Lowlands, and the Cascade Range (see Figure 1). 

If you used the How's My Waterway - Home ( tool, you now have some idea of where your watershed sits in the overall drainage basin. One thing you can count on is that water flows downhill! It travels from our neighborhood ditches and stormwater ponds into our local creeks, rivers, and lakes and eventually outfalls to Puget Sound.

Figure 1. Map showing streams and rivers drain three physiographic provinces in the Puget Sound Basin (Black and Silkey, 1998). Photo upper left showing streambank vegetation is sparse along an agricultural stream. (Photograph by Bob Black, U.S. Geological Survey.) Photo to the right showing urban land use is concentrated in the Puget Lowlands. (Photograph by Ward Staubitz, U.S. Geological Survey.) Photo lower left showing Rivers in forested headwaters supply most of the drinking water for major urban centers.(Photograph by Bob Black, U.S. Geological Survey.)
Figure 1. Streams and rivers drain three physiographic provinces in the Puget Sound Basin (Black and Silkey, 1998). - from the NAWQA - Water Quality in the Puget Sound Basin.

When precipitation falls as rain or snow, it is collected in our stormwater systems and drains into our local waterbodies. Precipitation is generally clean, but as it runs across our roadways and lawns it picks up pollutants like nitrogen, oil, and phosphorus. Common sources include fertilizers, animal waste, and oil leaks from cars. These pollutants create water quality problems. According to the Department of Ecology,
"More than 60 percent of water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, fertilizers and pesticides from farms and gardens, failing septic tanks, pet waste, and fuel spills from recreational boating."

The Basics of Good Water Quality

According to the Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington, the stormwater pollutants of most concern are total suspended solids (sediments), oil and grease, nutrients, pesticides, other organics, pathogens, biochemical oxygen demand, heavy metals, and salts (USEPA, 1995), (Field et al., 1997), and (Strecker et al., 1997).

Urban development as it is done today, harms the environment. This is clearly explained in the Western Washington Stormwater Management Manual in Volume I, Section 1.3, "The Effects of Urbanization." (Read it here.) It is not very long, and if you are at all interested, I highly recommend you read the entire section. It is eye opening.

The primary thing you can do to help improve water quality is to keep or restore your property to a natural, forested state. More and more I see property owners pave their entire backyard or install covered patios. While this is great for those few occasions you use it, it harms our creeks by increasing runoff and reducing infiltration. Removing natural vegetation reduces the ability of the land to soak up the rain. It turn, this increases runoff and concentrates the pollutants going into our stormwater ponds and natural water bodies, ultimately harming our creeks and the fish who live in them and other critters who depend on them.

Below is a great infographic from King County's Stormwater Services. It puts stormwater quality issues into perspective:

Only Rain Down the Drain

The other thing you can do, is to simply reduce the amount of pollutants you send to the stormwater system. This means using less fertilizer, using commercial car washes, and picking up after your pets. Check out the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Manual - King County for ideas!

Report a Spill

What should you do if you see a spill? 
If you see pollutants like oil or paint, spilled (or dumped) on the road and getting into the stormwater system or our natural waterbodies, please report it! The Department of Ecology (DOE) oversees spill response and prevention through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Cities usually have their own emergency spill response phone lines or online systems. You can use your local jurisdiction's system, or the DOE's online form at Statewide reporting form ERTS - Washington State Department of Ecology. Any report using this system is also sent to the responsible jurisdiction. Usually someone will follow up with you to better understand the situation and help explain what can be done or even assist to clean up the spill. The sooner you report it, the more we can help.

What Is Your Water Quality Experience?

Have you seen water quality problems where you live? Do you have experience with algae growing in a stormwater pond? Have you thought about what might be causing it? If you have a well-connected neighborhood or an HOA, you might consider trying an experiment! Before next summer, ask your local jurisdiction to give you some information on helping improve water quality in your area and ask your neighbors to commit to following their suggestions. Survey the area to see if anything changes! It might take a year or two, but with a little effort, you just might see improvements in your own environment.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Free Virtual Training! - Critical Areas Adaptive Management

Webinar Series on Critical Areas

The Washington State Departments of Commerce, Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife are hosting an 11-week webinar series to review best practices, case studies, resources, and tools to enhance monitoring and adaptive management efforts for critical areas and shorelines geared toward local government planners.

Webinars are held each Wednesday from 9-11 AM beginning January 13th through March 24th. 
*Note: For webinars that you may have missed, recordings are posted at the bottom of this web page: Critical Areas Adaptive Management Training Workshops (

Topics related to stormwater issues that I would recommend viewing include:
  • Wetlands (Jan. 27)
    • This webinar will look at the important role local governments play in protecting wetlands and provide practical advice for the monitoring and adaptive management of wetland regulations and permit processes. Speakers will discuss Ecology’s wetlands compliance program, explore a methodology for assessing the effectiveness of wetland buffers, and provide recommendations for what local governments may want to track as part of a local critical areas monitoring and adaptive management program.
  • Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (Feb. 10)
    • In this webinar about Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas we will discuss what the GMA requires of local governments and tools designed to help you and your customers succeed in your efforts to conserve these critical areas. We will review resources available through WDFW and demonstrate new web-based tools. We will discuss our recently updated riparian management recommendations and web-based related tools.
  • Frequently Flooded Areas (Feb. 17)
    • This presentation will focus on the role of local governments in regulating frequently flooded areas. Speakers will provide resources for identifying frequently flooded areas, make monitoring recommendations, and explore potential adaptive management strategies. This webinar will be most relevant to participants who work for communities that experience flooding.
  • Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (Feb. 24)
    • This webinar will provide an overview of how monitoring and adaptive management applies to critical aquifer recharge areas. We will cover wellhead protection areas, source water protection, individual residential wells, threats to drinking water, and how local government can prevent contamination.
To register and for more information on each session visit the project page at Washington Department of Commerce Growth Management Critical Areas.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Congresswoman Strickland Advocates for More Funding for Puget Sound Recovery

The Tacoma News Tribune published an editorial earlier this month about newly elected Congresswoman (and former Tacoma Mayor) Marilyn Strickland and the role she will play to help bring more funding for Puget Sound through the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus. You can read the article here: Strickland, Kilmer put on full court press for Puget Sound | Tacoma News Tribune (

Let's Make Puget Sound A National Treasure

Congresswoman Strickland wants to put Puget Sound up in the ranks with the likes of the Great Lakes, which comprise the largest surface of freshwater in the world, and the Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest estuary in North America. Similar calls were made in the 2019 State of the Sound, which described Puget Sound Partnership's #CalltoAction for Congress to, "Fund the Puget Sound Geographic Program at a level commensurate with the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay." In 2019, Congressman Heck introduced H.R. 2247, the Puget SOS Act, which would establish a Puget Sound Recovery National Program Office within the EPA, the Puget Sound Federal Leadership Task Force (replacing the existing Puget Sound Federal Task Force), and a State Advisory Committee. The bill passed on a voice vote in February 2020, but it died because it was not taken up by the Senate. More on H.R. 2247 can be read here: PUGET SOS Act (2020; 116th Congress H.R. 2247) - The bill will need to be reintroduced to move forward.

As a former resident of the Great Lakes, this would definitely be a promotion for Puget Sound on the national stage. While Puget Sound is already recognized as a significant waterbody of national importance through the National Estuary Program (of which the Chesapeake Bay is also a member), I do not believe the general public across the United States have much awareness of the Sound and its' abundance of natural and economic resources. To be fair, as a Midwesterner, I did not know much (or even anything) about the Chesapeake Bay either, but I also don't recall being taught about stormwater pollution in grade school. When I was in college, I participated in an organization that afforded me the opportunity to teach fifth graders about rain gardens, so we have come a long way.

Funding Programs to Jump-start Recovery

We have made significant progress by teaching the next generation about the importance of how stormwater impacts our natural resources and what we can do to help protect them. But the damage has already been done. So we must approach these issues from multiple avenues, which include a combination of preservation, pollution prevention, treatment, and habitat restoration. This kind of attention and funding is vital to support restoration projects that will jump-start this recovery. The Puget Sound Vital Signs tracks the health of the ecosystem using a variety of factors. One factor is the Water Quality Index (WQI) which currently shows that urban rivers, like the Snohomish River, the Snoqualmie River, and the Puyallup River, are declining in freshwater quality. You can read more about the WQI here: PS Info | Water Quality Index

Additional programs that the Puget Sound Partnership calls the State Legislature to fund include habitat protection and restoration programs such as the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) and efforts to reduce stormwater pollution such as the Stormwater Financial Assistance Program. In September 2020, $18 million in grants was awarded by the SRFB to 91 projects across 29 counties. The news release with project descriptions available by County can be read here: State Awards $18 Million in Grants to Recover Salmon - RCO.

What Projects Are You Interested In?

If you are curious, you can view project location maps for many of these programs. They are typically hosted on their respective websites. Let me know if there is one in particular you are interested in knowing more about!

If you are an industry professional, have you applied for or received funding from these programs in the past? I'd love to hear what kind of project you worked on and how it was working with the granting and other partner organizations!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

News Release - Reauthorizing the National Estuary Program (Puget Sound Partnership)

Background Information on Puget Sound Partnership

Below is a news release from Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), the state agency that oversees implementation of the National Estuary Program for Puget Sound. The National Estuary Program (NEP) is an EPA program to protect and restore water quality and ecological function of estuaries of national significance. The NEP is a non-regulatory program established by Congress and was authorized by section 320 of the Clean Water Act in 1987. Puget Sound is one of 28 estuaries in the program. Each NEP develops and implements a long-term plan based on local priorities to guide their efforts. 
PSP was created in 2007 when Washington passed legislation to create the state agency dedicated to protecting and restoring Puget Sound. More about the program can be found at NEP overview ( PSP is implementing the 2018 - 2022 Action Agenda. You can view their Action Agenda Tracker for progress. PSP is currently working to develop the 2022 - 2026 Action Agenda, updates can be viewed here. The public comment period for the development of the new Action Agenda is currently scheduled for Feb - June 2022. Other opportunities exist for partners, local governments and tribal organizations to participate in the early phases work. Very exciting stuff!

PSP has a wealth of information on their site, I highly recommend you check it out! And it is good to see excellent efforts like this getting Congressional support.

NEWS RELEASE: Congress moves to invest in the nation's estuaries

Puget Sound Canoe banner

February 1, 2021


MEDIA CONTACT: Kevin Hyde, 360.819.3045, 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What Is Stormwater and Why Does It Matter?

This first installment is your basic refresher course on what stormwater is and why it is important to think about. Over the past 50 years, stormwater has evolved as a science and profession. It is a complex issue that impacts all of us and the environment. Let's begin!

The Water Cycle

Let's start with water. You remember the water cycle from grade school, right? Have you thought about it much since then? Below is an image depicting the natural water cycle, without human interference. Notice the precipitation which can become natural runoff, recharges groundwater through infiltration, and streams and lakes which are fed by both. 

Where Stormwater Begins and Ends

Although the water cycle has no beginning and no end, stormwater for our purposes certainly does. It begins as precipitation and ends in local waterbodies. We hear it on the rooftop, collect it in gutters and pipes, and generally try to drain it away as quickly as we can. Out of sight, out of mind. Good riddance, right? Not so fast! This is the crux of the issue.

In the urban landscape, rain can no longer slowly infiltrate into the soil or transpire through natural vegetation. We built our homes, manicured our lawns, and paved driveways and roads so we can live in this beautiful place that drains to the Puget Sound. The water that once filtered through the forest or infiltrated through the ground runs off as stormwater in larger amounts. Below is a good approximation of the amounts of runoff and groundwater recharge from a typical suburban development in the Puget Sound lowlands (Low Impact Development Technical Guidance Manual for Puget Sound, December 2012). 

Stormwater Where You Live

When you walk around your neighborhood, have you ever noticed the storm drains in the street? Is there a stormwater facility collecting the water from your street? Do you have any creeks nearby? Maybe even a lake? Do you know where the creek goes, and if that goes to the lake, where does the lake drain? How does it get to Puget Sound and what is the water collecting along the way? 

If you don't know, or haven't thought much about it before, the next time you go out I challenge you to look at the drains and stormwater in your neighborhood. Think about where it came from and where it is going to. To help you out, there is an easy to use map! Using the link below, you can enter your address and it will show you the watershed you live in and how it drains.

Open the map! (opens the U.S. EPA's, How's My Waterway? tool in a new page)

Why Does It Matter? It's About Quality and Quantity.

Stormwater is the biggest source of pollution in Puget Sound. It gathers pollutants when it runs across manmade surfaces. It collects excess nutrients from fertilizer used on your lawn and metals deposited on the road from vehicles. I will write a more detailed post going into water quality, but what you should know right now, is that these pollutants cause many problems like reducing habitat diversity, harming wildlife, and infringing on recreational opportunities.

Another issue of stormwater is the volume of runoff we generate. The figure above points out that stormwater runs off in a greater amount after our homes have replaced forested land. Instead of being captured by the forest and slowly put into the ground and streams, impervious surfaces (hard surfaces that impede the ability of water to infiltrate) cause water to runoff quickly. This increases the amount of water entering the creeks for a short period of time. The increased runoff causes stream levels to rise above normal which causes erosion. And when a stream is overwhelmed, we see localized urban flooding.

Share Your Stormwater Story!

So, tell me, do you already think about stormwater? What kind of experiences do you have with stormwater? Please share what you learn about your neighborhood. What brought you here to this post and what are you interested to learning about? 

Are you implementing ways to reduce your runoff and improve water quality where you live? 
Or, has stormwater and how you affect it, not really crossed your mind before?

Already wondering what you can do to help? There are so many things we can do, from simple to advanced, that allow all of us to do our part to help recover and restore the watersheds we live in.

5 Easy Things You Can Do Today! 

  1. Maintain your vehicle. Never dump anything down a storm drain. Always recycle used oil, antifreeze, and other fluids. Fix oil leaks.
  2. Wash your car at a commercial car wash. If you wash your car at home, wash it on your lawn.
  3. Cut down on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Use them sparingly. Don't fertilize before a rainstorm. Consider using organic fertilizers. 
  4. Replace part of your lawn with native, drought-resistant plants.
  5. Pick up after your pets and keep animals out of streams. If you have farm animals, compost manure in a designated area so that it doesn't wash off into nearby waterways.
For the full list see King County's webpage Stormwater runoff pollution and how to reduce it - King County