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
King County - Sewage Overflows Increase in Last 5 Years
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.