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Duwamish River water quality project earns major federal funding

Summary

A low interest loan from the Environmental Protection Agency will save King County sewer utility ratepayers over $30 million on a project that will protect water quality in the Duwamish River and spur economic investment in nearby communities. King County received $134.5 million in funding through EPA’s highly competitive Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program.

Story

A water quality project that will spur economic investment and keep polluted runoff out of the Duwamish River during severe rain storms will now come with the added benefit of substantial ratepayer savings.

The Environmental Protection Agency selected King County’s Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station Project as one of a dozen projects nationwide that qualify for a low-interest loan through the highly competitive Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Program (WIFIA).

EPA granted the project a low interest loan of $134.5 million, which will finance nearly half of the overall $262 million investment and save sewer ratepayers over $30 million over the next 33 years. The utility’s strong credit rating, affirmed by Moody’s at Aa1 and Standard & Poor’s at AA+ ahead of the loan closure, locked in the interest rate at 3.06 percent through 2051.  

The five-year construction project will be a source of family-wage jobs in the community. It is one of three King County construction projects that are part of a pilot program, Priority Hire, which requires contractors to train and hire construction workers living in local ZIP codes with high levels of poverty and unemployment.

As part of an effort to spur economic equity, King County is also structuring construction contracts to encourage more small business participation. The project is expected to create up to 1,400 direct and indirect jobs, including several opportunities for contractors and suppliers.

The Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station will treat up to 70 million gallons of polluted stormwater runoff that currently flows into the Duwamish River during severe rainstorms. It is among the final projects complete King County’s four-decade work to control the combined sewer overflow that still occurs in parts of Seattle where sewer lines were installed in the early to mid-20th century.

King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division conducted extensive community outreach throughout design phase to ensure the project reflects the local character. The sustainable design includes a green roof and cisterns to filter and collect stormwater. King County will also plant trees to improve air quality in the Georgetown neighborhood, which has one of the highest asthma rates in Seattle. 

The treatment station will also provide a space for school programs and environmental education. Get more information and status updates on the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station Project online.