Our wet winter drags on, with another “atmospheric river” drenching Washington the week of March 13. A local weather blog notes that Seattle has received a month’s worth of rain in just the first two weeks of March.
As the West Point Treatment Plant service area got soaked once again, operators managed flows to prevent untreated discharges from the plant while ’round the clock restoration work continues.
Because King County can’t “turn off” the treatment plant, West Point managers developed a flow management plan to divert high flows of stormwater and wastewater to satellite facilities for treatment. Experienced operators watch system flows to trigger diversion to those facilities before incoming flows exceed the current plant capacity.
While the persistent rain led to some minor flooding, slowed traffic and led to weather-weary grumbling, West Point continued providing wastewater treatment and discharged disinfected flows through the deep-water outfall.
Everyone can pop open that umbrella and take a walk along the beaches of Discovery Park, which have remained open for water recreation since Feb. 21.
Discovery Park beaches are open for recreation!
Beaches have been open since Feb. 21. For beach status throughout the area, visit Washington Department of Ecology’s beach site.
Marine monitoring Web page launched
Visit the Wastewater Treatment Division’s marine monitoring page to learn about the plan developed in coordination with Department of Ecology to monitor Puget Sound waters while West Point Treatment Plant is providing reduced levels of treatment.
You can read the monitoring plan, see the locations of marine monitoring stations, and find answers to frequently asked questions. Every two weeks, we will post marine monitoring reports, with data at sampling locations.
King County’s Environmental Lab will be sampling more frequently at stations around West Point while treatment plant restoration work continues. In addition to the routine monitoring of all marine stations every two weeks, sampling in alternate weeks will occur at four stations.
Back at the treatment plant
Hard work around the clock by skilled crews is moving West Point Treatment Plant back to full secondary treatment. Restoring the biological processes that remove organic matter from our wastewater is a complex and delicate task that starts with heating the digesters up to about human body temperature.
While crews repair permanent equipment, a team is hooking up a temporary boiler to bring the heat up in a digester and help return the microorganisms inside to productivity.
Signs of life in the secondary system
A key step is determining if those organisms can return to their critical service. The microbial ecosystem has been sitting dormant, unfed and unheated, since Feb. 9. West Point scientists have removed digester samples and carefully provided food from the primary tanks and heat. They report that in this controlled testing environment, the cultures show healthy respiration levels, indicating they are back on the job breaking down organic matter.
Reviving the bugs in a controlled laboratory setting is important proof that the cultures are alive, but more careful work is needed to recreate this success on a large scale in the digesters.
Crews are continuing to work throughout the plant to restore motors, lighting, and ventilation systems.
King County employees support crews and operators
The first question King County employees asked when they heard about the unprecedented West Point Treatment Plant flooding was, “What can I do to help?”
Operations and maintenance crews from other treatment plants help at West Point, and employees throughout the system manage a larger work load with some flows transferred to other plants. But there isn’t much that untrained employees can do to help at the plant.
King County’s emphasis on service and teamwork shows at times like these, and people found a universally appreciated way to show support– food.
Since late February, employees throughout the Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Human Resources Division, Office of Labor Relations, and the Executive Cabinet have signed up to serve West Point crews buffet style lunches once a week. They cook, bake, buy food and donate cash to set a welcome table in the Rainier conference room every Friday.
On March 10, a coworker and Girl Scout Daisy parent sent a special treat: boxes of Girl Scout cookies accompanied by “thank you” notes from the troop.
West Point workers appreciate the support as much as the food. Operators who are used to working behind the scenes providing high quality wastewater service day after day are now on the front lines restoring the treatment plant. Everyone’s routines have changed. While most King County employees can’t step in to help, we can let our hard working, dedicated colleagues know that we’re standing by them throughout the restoration effort.