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Since the systems failure and subsequent flooding at the County’s West Point Treatment Plant in February 2017, the Wastewater Treatment Division has taken decisive action to improve safety and redundancy in the plant; however, it could do more to mitigate persisting risks to safety and operations until permanent solutions are in place. Many key efforts remain to mitigate risks at West Point Treatment Plant (West Point) and they will take nearly a decade to fully implement. Further, the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is implementing its initial schedule for completing capital improvements to West Point and WTD needs to finish ongoing consultant evaluations that will inform solutions for the treatment plant. 

Summary

Several system failures at West Point during heavy rainfall on February 9, 2017, led to a significant flooding incident at the facility, which resulted in an estimated 244 million gallons of untreated or partially-treated sewage discharging into Puget Sound and resulted in nearly 8 billion gallons of wastewater receiving only limited primary treatment and disinfection over the next 77 days. The flood also left $23 million in damages to the facility and brought to light many shortcomings in the treatment plant, its systems, WTD life safety management, staffing, and training. WTD has taken key steps to address many of these shortcomings and has plans for additional capital and operational improvements to further mitigate risks at West Point. Our independent oversight provides an unbiased view of what work WTD has completed, where risk remains, and whether WTD is taking sufficient steps to mitigate those risks until it can fully implement capital-intensive solutions.

Since the systems failure and subsequent flooding at the County’s West Point Treatment Plant in February 2017, the Wastewater Treatment Division has taken decisive action to improve safety and redundancy in the plant; however, it could do more to mitigate persisting risks to safety and operations until permanent solutions are in place. Many key efforts remain to mitigate risks at West Point Treatment Plant and they will take nearly a decade to fully implement. Further, the Wastewater Treatment Division is implementing its initial schedule for completing capital improvements to West Point and WTD needs to finish ongoing consultant evaluations that will inform solutions for the treatment plant.

We make recommendations for the Wastewater Treatment Division to take actions to ensure it can quickly begin design work to meet its capital program timelines for West Point Treatment Plant, adopt formal mechanisms to track its life safety management activities, and ensure training is updated continuously and new information is provided to plant staff in a timely manner. We also make a recommendation for the Wastewater Treatment Division to reevaluate its combined sewer overflow program to determine whether there are opportunities to manage to reduce flows to the West Point Treatment Plant within the broader collection system. These steps will help to further mitigate long term risk at the treatment plant.

Reports related to this audit

Follow up work is in progress. A report will be available as soon as it is complete.

Currently, there are no related reports to this project.

Audit team

Michael Bowers and Brooke Leary conducted this audit. If you have any questions or would like more information, please call the King County Auditor's Office at 206-477-1033 or contact us by email at KCAO@kingcounty.gov.