Last month, Washington’s West Point treatment plant was hit with heavy rains and flooding, leading to catastrophic damage and a multi-million-dollar price tag for repairs.
The flood started by taking out the plant’s pump station, per The Seattle Times, then began to fill the plant itself. As upstream levels of sewage coming into the plant rose, the emergency bypass gate opened, sending the sewage to an outfall pipe leading into the Puget Sound. Despite this, the flood had already caused irreparable damage to the plant.
“By then the plant was already flooded, with a barrage of some 15 million gallons of water barreling through it, powerful enough to buckle and break down 25-foot-high garage doors, mangle equipment and leave a fur of untreated sewage 12 feet up the walls,” The Seattle Times reported. “Cavernous rooms filled with pumps and other equipment were flooded to the ceiling and steeped in muck.”
It will be some time before the plant, which receives sewage from 1.7 million people around Seattle, is back to conducting regular service.
“Tens of millions of dollars of equipment, including more than 200 motors and more than 100 electrical panels, were destroyed,” according to the Times. “Industrial-scale boilers, used in the treatment process, need to be replaced.”
In subsequent coverage of the disaster, The Seattle Times reported that repairs could cost more than $25 million, which the county hopes will be covered by its insurer. To speed up recovery, the local county council voted unanimously to veto the usual competitive bidding process for contracting repairs. Officials have been desperate to get the plant back to full capacity.
“The West Point plant is running at only half-capacity, operating well below the performance required by its state permit from the Department of Ecology,” per the Times. “West Point is supposed to send wastewater into Puget Sound cleaned to at least 85 percent purity. But right now wastewater is being returned to the Sound only 40 percent clean of solids — or worse.”
Local officials painted a pretty grim picture of the situation in King County without the plant.
“It’s an environmental catastrophe every day it is not up and running,” Councilmember Rod Dembowksi said, according to the Times. “I hate to say that, but it’s true.”
Image credit: "Seattle" seryani © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/