Our thoughts on the West Point Independent Review Report

As promised last spring, the King County Council has publicly shared the results of an independent review of our West Point Treatment Plant operations.

The report took an unbiased look at our operations and maintenance practices as part of an effort to learn from what happened at West Point on Feb. 9, 2017, when severe storms and high flows led to flooding and serious equipment damage.

We agree with the report’s findings, which include a number of recommendations to improve plant operations, increase system redundancy, and strengthen employee safety and training.

Many of these improvements are already underway, and some are even completed. For example, we’ve upgraded electrical systems so they’re more reliable, and we replaced outmoded equipment so we can avoid a repeat of the flooding scenario that happened last winter.

The review recommendations closely mirror the ones reached in an earlier root-cause study we completed soon after the flooding happened in February, so it’s reassuring to know we’re on the right track.

With the plant again operating at full capacity and meeting strict permit standards since May 12, it’s now time to look to the future.Aerial_0709WestPointTP009_1

The independent review report offers a roadmap to help us navigate challenges ahead, which for us include population growth, more development, and more stormwater runoff, all of which will lead to more demand on West Point. The plant treats the largest volume of stormwater and wastewater in our regional sewer system, yet it sits on the smallest footprint and there is little room for expansion and upgrades.

Over the short and long term, we’ll need to look at ways to boost our system capacity and reliability, both at West Point and in other parts of our system, and how we can include these improvements in projects we already have planned so the upgrades are also fiscally responsible.

WTD has always had a strong emphasis on employee safety and training, but we’ll take it a step further and implement standards drawing on best practices from the federal government and other industrial sectors. We’ll also structure our emergency response training so it’s compliant with Homeland Security guidelines, and include more scenario-specific drills.

On that note, our operations employees deserve enormous credit, not just for the work they did restoring the plant so quickly, but for their response that night. The independent review was clear that the operators on shift were experienced and competent and used their best professional judgment in an emergency that occurred in just 12 minutes.

We’re grateful for the insights we gained from the County Council’s Independent Review. Moving forward on their recommendations will ultimately improve our operations, protect our employees and the environment, and increase our level of service to our ratepayers.

For additional information on the West Point Restoration, including links to the Independent Review report, please visit our website.