When King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) dedicates a new wastewater facility, we invite people near and far to join us. Celebrations provide an ideal opportunity to thank project communities for their role in the project and their patience during the process. People get to see firsthand how public input shaped a neighborhood’s new clean water asset.
King County welcomed about 200 people to dedicate the Murray Wet Weather Facility in West Seattle on a sunny Saturday in June. Visitors arrived on foot, bikes, or by car. The youngest rolled up in strollers. Some visitors were on leash, wearing collars.
The Murray Wet Weather Facility is an element of King County’s Protecting Our Waters Program. King County is working to reduce untreated discharges of stormwater and wastewater in the Seattle area. At Murray, the best solution was to store excess flows until storms pass, protecting Puget Sound near Lowman Beach Park.
Participants joined tours of the grounds, the public art, and the odor control facility. They learned how King County incorporated community values during the design of a critical pollution control facility.
“King County and its predecessors have a history dating back to the 1950s of being world leaders in the treatment of stormwater and wastewater, said Fred Jarrett, King County Senior Deputy Executive. “This is a really important project for us.”
Jarrett praised the community’s involvement. “This is a project that we will be able to look to for years to come as an example of how we should do projects. I want to thank you finally for the work you’ve done inspiring us, giving us a vision, keeping us on point.”
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, an area resident, knew that the community would come to the table.
“The County first came and talked to the community in 2009 and entered into a conversation to say, ‘What would your vision be?’ It didn’t surprise me a bit that you took us up on that conversation.”
Councilmember McDermott pointed out how the design reflected input on access to Lowman Beach Park, views, and protecting Puget Sound water quality.
WTD Director Mark Isaacson congratulated Project Manager Marla Coles as a “great closer”, providing expert guidance during the final phases and bringing the Murray project in around $250,000 under budget and on schedule.
Coles thanked the community for their partnership. “It was a long road. We’ve been through a lot together!” She recounted three years of construction and community dialogue.
Coles gave a report on the facility’s operation: during a winter when four feet of rain fell in the Seattle area, the facility stored flows several times, reducing pollution going to Puget Sound.
Offsite Supervisor Verna Overturf led tours of the above-ground facilities. She explained operations and how crews inspect and maintain the facility.
Overturf pointed out added features that benefit the existing Murray Pump Station.
“This new generator will switch on during a power outage and operate both facilities,” she said. “When the power went out before, we had to operate the pump station with a temporary generator that we towed in.”
Overturf described how the odor control equipment will scrub air from the new tank and the system that is already in place. She said the system had a history of being a little smelly. “We had a little odor control for the pump station,” according to Overturf. “But not much.”
Deb Barker, president of Morgan Community Association, praised Offsite Facilities employees.
“I’m heartened about how impassioned the staff is about their facility,” she said. “They are going to take really good care of it. That feels good as a resident to know we have good stewards watching out for us.”
The landscaping is part of the stormwater solution
The landscape at Murray is carefully designed to capture and manage stormwater on site. Rain gardens and porous pavement let rain soak in to the ground rather than run off. Plants help to clean the stormwater that falls, and keep it on site.
Landscape architect Scott Radford, a construction inspector for the Murray project, demonstrated how porous pavement works in “a really big rainstorm”: a bucket of water poured on the ground quickly disappears from the surface.
Public art connects people and the environment
The landscape features a public art installation that helps engage people and connect them to the environment. Rammed earth walls located along the staircase to Lowman Beach Park convey our watershed, source to sea. The color and texture of the walls show subtle variations as the light changes..
“My public art focuses on the natural dynamics of this region: stormwater, water, the movement of water,” said artist Robert Horner. “This project gave me an opportunity to connect the cycles of hydrologic flow from the mountains to Puget Sound.”
Horner appreciated interacting with the Murray community.
“Murray is one of the most involved public art projects I’ve worked on,” he said. “Public art creates dialogues between communities and the agencies that build these facilities. There were a lot of community meetings.”
“The first word in public artist is public,” Horner noted. “It’s very important to get their feedback.”
As the celebration ended, one community member noted that it was a perfect day to dedicate a new neighborhood clean water facility.
“We’re all here together on a sunny day. Look at Puget Sound: it’s so blue! And this station will help it stay that way.”
For more information:
Watch the video below to hear King County representatives and community members talk about the project.
Visit the project Web page.
Take a self-guided tour of the Murray Wet Weather site; interpretive signage describes the facility, landscape, and architecture.