West Point treatment plant not yet 'all systems go'

By: Graham Johnson

Updated:

Seattle, Wash. - A walk through the West Point Treatment Plant reveals many signs of progress as King County's sewage plant recovers from a massive flood in February that fried critical equipment.

But around 20 trucks a day are leaving the site carrying solids heading for treatment at a different plant in Renton.

That's because digesters, which use bugs to process sewage, are still running at half capacity.

The bugs, which went dormant, can't be rushed back to activity.

"We're relying on biology and it's not as precise as a mechanical piece of equipment so we have to work with all those bugs," said Christie True, director of King County's Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

The half of the solids that can't be treated in the digesters is now split between being trucked to Renton or sent right into Puget Sound.

With some solids going in to the Sound, the plant is still violating its permits, but officials say there's little environmental impact on water quality.

"I'm not going to say insignificant, but it's very low in its impact," plant manager Robert Waddle said.

Liquid treatment is at full capacity, and the county expects solids to be fully online in mid-May.

Workers are installing float switches to replace the ones that failed to prevent flooding in the plant when the power surged during a rainstorm.

What's still unclear is exactly why the power surged in the first place.

"It's quite possible it's something we may never know," Waddle said.

The King County Council has launched an independent review of the disaster.

After that's done, state regulators say they will decide what kind of fines the county might face for permit violations.

The diminished capacity for treating solids didn't stop county officials from issuing a press release Thursday that claimed "all systems go" at West Point.

The county had set a target of restoration at the plant by the end of April

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