News Feature | February 24, 2017

Seattle Waste Plant Battered By Historic Flood

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

storm.reg

Historic flooding crippled a wastewater treatment plant in Seattle this month, damaging equipment and leaving the inside of the facility 12-feet deep in sewage in some areas.

Hundreds of motors and electrical panels were destroyed at West Point Treatment Plant. The plant also needs to replace industrial-scale boilers, The Seattle Times reported. Equipment damages will cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Managers say the facility flooded and sustained catastrophic equipment damage early Feb. 9, and wound up releasing raw sewage along with a greater volume of street stormwater runoff. That happened again [last week] for seven hours as 1.6 inches of rain fell in the city that day,” The Seattle Times reported.

Difficulties began when the plant’s pump station failed, according to The Seattle Times.

“Staff on duty about 2:15 a.m., Feb. 9, worked to reduce the incoming flow while attempting — unsuccessfully — to restart the 2,250-horsepower motors on the pumps. As water levels in the plant continued to rise, staff next worked to manually intervene to stop pumps bringing more incoming flow,” the report said.

“That caused the upstream levels of sewage entering the plant to rise, triggering an emergency bypass gate to automatically open. That diverts raw sewage away from the plant and into an emergency outfall pipe to Puget Sound, as a desperate measure to save the plant,” it continued.

The plant was inundated with 15 million gallons water, which flooded the facility. Garage doors broke down and 12 feet of sewage lined the walls. Pumps and other equipment were ruined.

As operations and maintenance section manager Robert Waddle put it, per The Seattle Times: “Water is impatient. And the water won.”

Activists say sewage dumping in local waterways amid the influx of rain is a major environmental concern.

"There's a broader risk here. The amount of nutrients being discharged that could affect algal blooms in the coming summer," said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance executive director, per KING 5. "You have to remember this is more than human waste and shower and sink waste. It's also industrial waste in it and other chemicals that we're trying to treat and keep out of the environment. What is the long-term fate of those chemicals?"

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.

Image credit: "storm front 14," mr pbps © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/