King County Works To Speed Up Repairs At Wastewater Treatment Plant

Feb 27, 2017

King County is working to expedite the cleanup at a wastewater treatment plant that flooded earlier this month in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.

The King County Council unanimously approved to extend a waiver on the county's competitive bidding process for contractors. 

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored the motion and called into the meeting from Washington D.C. She said high tides and heavy rains on Feb. 9 contributed to the West Point Treatment Plant's failure to keep raw sewage from flowing into Puget Sound.

"But we still have to find out what is the underlying reason," Kohl-Welles said. "Tides and rainfall should not cause systemic failure.

Councilmembers agreed that foregoing the traditional bidding process would allow the county to get more workers into the plant sooner. The motion also requires the county's wastewater treatment division to give the council quarterly progress reports.

"It seems to me that job one right now is to fix this problem," Councilmember Claudia Balducci said at the meeting. "Job 1-a ... is to find out what went wrong so that we make sure it doesn't ever happen again."

King County Executive Dow Constantine had waived the competitive bidding process for a limited time. Monday's emergency vote extends that waiver to the end of May 2018.

That would be enough time to repair extensive electrical damage, diagnose any underlying causes, and come up with a solution for the next rainy winter season, according to Wastewater Treatment Division Director Mark Issacson.

The plant has been running at limited capacity while crews work around the clock to make repairs.