West Point Treatment Plant in for $65 million makeover after sewage spills

Mar 24, 2021, 11:48 AM

Magnolia, wastewater, sewage, treatment, King County Wastewater Management, West Point...

Sewage and wastewater flow from the crippled West Point treatment plant in March 2017. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

The troubled West Point Treatment Plant at Discovery Park is getting a $65 million makeover, thanks to a unanimous King County Council vote.

The upgrades will help prevent future sewage overflows into the Puget Sound during rain and windstorms by providing better on-site power at the Magnolia plant.

Storms can lead to sewage spills if they knock the electricity out at the same time that heavy rains are causing large flows to come into the plant. In order to stop the plant from flooding while the power is out, the wastewater has to be diverted into the sound, without being treated first.

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These events have only gotten more frequent in recent years. There have been 15 sewage overflows at West Point in the past 20 years — eight of them in the past five years. The most recent, an 11-million-gallon spill, occurred in January.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored the legislation, which was first proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine. She said enough is enough — it’s time to invest the money in fixing a problem that is only going to keep happening. She fears climate change will only cause more extreme weather events in Washington in the coming years, such as the kind of storms that cause these overflows.

“We cannot continue to have these power lapses and surges happen that have plagued the West Point Treatment Plant,” said Kohl-Welles at a council meeting earlier this month.

Kohl-Welles previously told KIRO Radio that she was concerned for the health of all of the creatures in the Puget Sound, especially the endangered orcas and the salmon they rely on.

“It also is a matter of public safety,” she said.

Earlier this month, the council also approved Constantine’s emergency declaration for the plant. This allows the county to bypass the red tape and more quickly make repairs at the plant.

At peak water flows, the plant requires as much energy as about 11,000 houses.

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West Point Treatment Plant in for $65 million makeover after sewage spills