Mission -- The King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) protects public health and enhances the environment by treating and reclaiming wastewater, recycling solids and generating energy.
Year in review - 2011
What we do
WTD provides regional wholesale wastewater treatment services for 17 cities, 17 local sewer districts and more than 1.5 million residents across a 420-square-mile area in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.
The clean-water utility’s 600 employees maintain and operate treatment facilities, plan and design system improvements, regulate the disposal of industrial waste, and educate the public and businesses about protecting water quality.
WTD’s vision, Creating Resources from Wastewater, also guides present and future actions to recycle the byproducts of treated wastewater into valuable, resources such as energy, reclaimed water, and biosolids.
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More than 2,400 people took part in Brightwater's grand opening celebration on Sept. 24, 2011.
WTD’s capital projects put people to work. The agency conservatively estimates that it creates 140 full-time and part-time jobs for every $10 million spent on construction.
Working with the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle, and Boeing on plans related to the Lower Duwamish Superfund cleanup was a priority in 2011.
Protecting the environment by serving growth: Major capital improvements
WTD budgeted $232 million for dozens of sewer improvement projects to upgrade aging facilities, add new capacity to serve the growing population and improve regional water quality.
The agency’s most noteworthy accomplishment was completion of the Brightwater Treatment Plant. After more than a decade of planning and construction, local dignitaries and community members joined Executive Dow Constantine in September to celebrate the grand opening of the plant and its adjacent Environmental Education and Community Center. Brightwater’s 40 acres of restored habitat and three miles of trails also opened for public use in 2011.
Mining on Brightwater’s 13-mile conveyance tunnel was completed in August and the conveyance system is on schedule to begin operating in September 2012.
The agency began designing four new facilities to control combined sewer overflows that occur during heavy rains in West Seattle, North Beach and Magnolia.
Construction also began on a project to replace the Ballard Siphon, a 75-year-old wood stave pipe that extends across the bottom of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Other capital projects included rehabilitating aging pump stations, increasing pipeline capacity, and replacing outmoded treatment plant equipment. The disinfection system at West Point Plant was converted from gaseous chlorine to safer sodium hypochlorite.
Resource recovery and conservation
Demand remained high for biosolids, the nutrient-rich organic byproduct of the solids treatment process. The division recycled 100 percent of its biosolids, or about 119,000 tons, which was used in agriculture, forestry and commercial compost.
The division produced 307 million gallons of reclaimed water from its existing facilities that was primarily used on the plant sites for landscape irrigation, industrial processes and heating and cooling.
WTD also made strides in expanding availability of reclaimed water to potential customers near its existing treatment facilities. In May, the state Department of Ecology granted approval for the division to begin producing Class A reclaimed water from the new Brightwater plant. WTD also continued exploring long-term strategies for reclaimed water through a comprehensive planning effort.
The division continued its commitment to invest in the use of gas and heat created in the treatment process through alternative “green” energy technologies.
Construction was completed on the new West Point Treatment Plant’s Waste-to-Energy project that replaced a decommissioned cogeneration system and allows the facility to turn digester gas into a source of heat and electrical power. The system is expected to begin continuous online delivery of electricity to Seattle City Light by mid-2012.
South Treatment Plant produced 2.8 million therms of methane, some of which was cleaned and sold as natural gas to Puget Sound Energy. Both plants reused digester gas as a source of heat and power
WTD’s four treatment plants each attained 100 percent compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit effluent limits under the federal Clean Water Act and the state Water Pollution Control Law.
Earning public trust: finance and business
Bond rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s affirmed WTD’s favorable credit ratings, citing the utility’s consistent financial performance, strong management practices, and robust and diverse economic base. The utility’s creditworthiness reduces borrowing costs to finance capital improvement projects.
The division took advantage of historically low interest rates in 2011 to issue and refinance $494 million in sewer revenue bonds to cover the cost of current and prior capital improvements, saving ratepayers an estimated $70 million over the life of the bonds.
In June, the King County Council unanimously voted to maintain the monthly wholesale sewer rate at $36.10 through 2012. The two-year rate went into effect Jan. 1, 2011. In addition, the capacity charge paid by newly connecting customers was increased from $50.45 to $51.95. The rates provide the funding to ensure WTD continues to meet its regulatory requirements and fiscal commitments while safeguarding the environment and
April marked the sunset of WTD’s 10-year Productivity Initiative program. External audits confirmed the program effectively saved ratepayers about $84 million since its inception. In 2012, the utility will launch a new productivity/efficiency program to build on this earlier success.
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In 2012 and beyond, the division will continue to advance its environmental agenda while maintaining sound financial practices, meeting stringent permitting requirements, and conducting environmental cleanup and operating source control programs.
WTD will also look to the future by anticipating changing regulatory environments, employing new technologies, and investing in programs to recycle resources, reduce waste and provide value to ratepayers.
Wastewater Treatment Division financials
Page 23 (PDF) of the 2011 Annual Report, King County Department of Natural Resources
Related information: Annual financial statements.
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