Raw sewage flowed from pipes at every street end. River waters in cities were so dead that fish would avoid swimming upstream. “Scum and toilet debris floated on the water,” said one person, shaking his head. “It stunk. We weren’t supposed to swim, but we were kids, so we did anyway.”
That’s not a nightmare travel story from a faraway country. That was the Puget Sound region 50 years ago.
Half a century later, King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is celebrating the men and women who committed their careers, skills, talents, and creativity to the regional wastewater treatment system that has transformed our waterways.
On Aug. 18, employees gathered at West Point Treatment Plant to pay tribute to the people who protect our waters and our health every day.
Department of Natural Resources and Parks Director Christie True guided ceremonies that began with a tribal blessing by Marilyn Jones, Traditional Heritage Specialist for the Suquamish Tribal Government. The Suquamish Tribe calls the Seattle area home.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, a Seattle native and leading environmental advocate, provided opening remarks about the value of clean waterways to our region, and the need for continued innovation to address climate change.
Acting WTD Director Gunars Sreibers praised West Point operators for award-winning performance at a treatment plant where flows can increase from 125 million to 450 million gallons per day in a matter of hours during large storms.
Sreibers commended employees for their role maintaining landscaping and trails so that the plant is a good neighbor to Seattle’s largest park, which has grown up around the plant.
Employees enjoyed lunch and joined Operations Challenge competitions, while retirees and agency representatives toured the treatment plant and learned how it operates today.
This day celebrated the people who do the work, and whose commitment and spirit of service lead to even better service, reduced energy use and a healthier environment.