King County is Protecting Our Waters
Controlling combined sewer overflows
Protecting our Waters is King County’s program to prevent pollution caused by excess stormwater in the sewer system on rainy days.
Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are relief points in sewer systems that carry sewage and stormwater in the same pipe. When heavy rains fill the pipes, CSOs release sewage and stormwater into rivers, lakes, or Puget Sound. They prevent sewage backups into homes and businesses. But, they can harm people and animals living in the water because they carry chemicals and germs.
CSOs in King County exist only in older Seattle neighborhoods, where one set of pipes carries both sewage and stormwater. CSOs release 10 percent sewage and 90 percent stormwater. Most of the time, this water goes to a wastewater treatment plant.
King County and Seattle are working to control CSOs. A controlled CSO overflows no more than one time each year on average. This is a Washington State standard.
Since 1979, King County has reduced its overflows by 90 percent. This has kept more than 2.3 billion gallons of sewage and stormwater out of local waterways.