Dec. 18, 2009
Water quality quickly improves, beach reopened at West Point
New County Executive calls for thorough investigation of plant equipment and standard operating proceduresThe popular North Beach recreation area near Seattle’s Discovery Park is again open to the public following a wastewater overflow that occurred at the West Point Treatment Plant early Tuesday morning.
Laboratory samples showed a progressive improvement in water quality within days after 8.6 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater overflowed through the plant’s emergency outfall, located 500 feet off the beach. The county closed the beach to protect public health.
The county tested for fecal coliform and enterococcus bacteria at eight different locations (map) from the beach south of the Discovery Park lighthouse to Golden Gardens Park. Only one sample area, directly in the vicinity of the outfall, showed elevated bacteria counts on the day of the event. All subsequent samples showed levels consistent with background levels.
Employees with the county’s Wastewater Treatment Division notified regulatory agencies about the overflow, which occurred after employees engaged an emergency bypass system designed to protect the plant and personnel during heavy rains and high flows. The county responded immediately and discovered a faulty electrical switch to be the source of the problem.
The electrical switch was replaced immediately and King County Executive Dow Constantine has directed the Wastewater Treatment Division to conduct a thorough investigation to prevent future occurrences.
“I’ve asked Wastewater managers to look into additional safeguards for equipment and control systems, to review their preventative maintenance on the electrical equipment, and to review their standard operating procedures,” said Executive Constantine. “We must take every step we can to prevent accidental releases into Puget Sound in the future.”
The West Point Treatment Plant came online in 1966 and treats an average of 130 million gallons of wastewater a day for Seattle and several other cities and sewer districts in north and central King County. The plant can treat up to 440 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater during heavy rains.
More information about the West Point plant and the Wastewater Treatment Division is available on the Web at http://www.kingcounty.gov/.
People enjoy clean water and a healthy environment because of King County's wastewater treatment program. The county’s Wastewater Treatment Division protects public health, the environment and the economy by serving 17 cities, 17 local sewer districts and more than 1.5 million residents in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Formerly called Metro, the regional clean-water agency now operated by King County has been preventing water pollution for nearly 50 years.
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