King County

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Temporary fans and sump-pump hoses are whirring along inside the West Point Treatment plant. It’s still dark inside the tunnels where on February 9, a flood of sewage busted doors off and submerged everything up to 12-feet high.

Where we’re standing, we would have been underwater.  Plant manager Robert Waddle switches on a flashlight to show me around.

Ned Ahrens / King County Wastewater Treatment Division

The breakdown last month of Seattle’s wastewater treatment plant has poured hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated stormwater and raw sewage into Puget Sound. Repairs alone will cost an estimated $25 million. And it’s expected to take till the end of April to get the West Point Treatment Plant back to normal. Until then, the broken wastewater facility will be violating its permit and polluting Puget Sound.

COURTESY OF KING COUNTY WASTEWATER DIVISION

What caused the catastrophic failure of Seattle’s main wastewater treatment plant and how can the public be sure it won’t happen again?

King County Council members took emergency action Monday to ensure there’s a fully independent investigation.  

More Than Stormy Weather

Courtesy of King County Wastewater Division

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. 

John Froschauer / AP Photo

More people than ever before are using mass transit in King County. Authorities say rides on buses and light rail totaled about 150 million last year, making Seattle the nation’s fastest growing large metropolitan region for transit use.

ELAINE THOMPSON / AP

King County's annual One Night Count of the Homeless is a massive undertaking that can send more than a thousand volunteers fanning out through Seattle and its suburbs.

For the first time in 37 years, the task of organizing it falls on a new group, and leaders say they plan to try new strategies aimed at reaching more people.

All Home, which oversees federal housing funds in King County, is taking over management of the census, scheduled for January 27.

Public Health — Seattle & King County

People eating out at restaurants in King County will soon have a new way of seeing how safe those eating establishments are. Public Health — Seattle & King County is developing a grading display to show how restaurants have performed in their food safety inspections. The information will be required to be posted so that customers can see it when dining out.

Program manager Becky Elias says they’re looking at a half dozen possible designs and asking the public for feedback.

Toby Talbot / Associated Press

The word epidemic is often used when discussing opioid use in King County. In fact, a task force was formed earlier this year to come up with recommendations addressing the issue. Those suggestions are being released this month. But ahead of that report, 88.5’s Ariel Van Cleave sat down with senior researcher Caleb Banta-Green at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Institute to ask if we’re talking about drugs, drug use and treatment in the right ways.

Felipe Dana / AP Photo

The first case of the Zika virus has been reported in King County. It's the third case of Zika in Washington state. Officials are not concerned about an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, but more cases are expected.

The King County case involved a man in his forties who recently traveled to the country of Colombia. That's one of the countries where Zika is actively spreading, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mark Arehart / KPLU

That knock on your door may be for Fido, or possibly, Fluffy. King County is sending out canvassers to identify unlicensed pets. The canvassers, who are temporary county employees, will be out every weekend between now and the end of October, sporting county ID badges and carrying pet licensing documents.

Atomic Taco / Wikimedia Commons

King County Executive Dow Constantine used his State of the County address to make a pitch for a massive expansion of public transportation. A $27-billion-dollar Sound Transit 3 tax proposal is on this fall’s ballot. Under the proposal, light rail would extend to Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and, eventually, run from Everett to Tacoma. The completion date would be 25 years from now.

Molly McGuire

Heroin use in King County is at epidemic levels. Government and public health officials say something needs to be done. So, they’re forming a task force.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

There are now hard numbers to back up what Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a televised address earlier this week: Seattle and King County are struggling with a growing crisis of homelessness. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

King County’s environmental lab is retiring an old research vessel and getting a new one. The replacement boat is a $1.9 million-dollar custom-designed aluminum catamaran that will be faster and more efficient than the old vessel, Liberty.

The Liberty will remain in service through this spring from its home on a pier in Seattle's canal. It has been a workplace for environmental scientists since it first purchased 38 years ago.

Joshua Rappeneker / Flickr

This past year, there’s been a push among big corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, to expand paid leave for new moms and dads.

Local governments are also boosting benefits. Earlier this year, Seattle began offering city workers four weeks of paid leave after birth or an adoption, and now King County will start piloting 12 weeks of paid parental leave in the new year.

Gordon Werner via Creative Commons / Flickr

King County has signed into law a climate action plan that many local environmentalists are applauding as one of the boldest in the United States. How communities will meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a big question, as representatives get ready for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris next month.

Bridget Coila via Creative Commons / Flickr

Bonding with a new baby could soon become less financially stressful for King County's more than 14,000 employees.

The county is considering an expansion of its paid parental leave program – allowing its employees up to 12 weeks away from the office after the birth or adoption of a child. 

Right now, new parents who work for King County can cobble together paid leave from accrued sick pay and vacation time to be with their babies.

Paula WIssel

Sex trafficking of minors and others coerced into prostitution is only possible when there is a market. According to the advocacy group Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking, one way to stem that demand is to get workplaces involved.

Alan Berner / Associate Press

 

A King County jury on Friday found Christopher Monfort guilty of aggravated first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting death of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton.

The jury of six men and six women now will move to the penalty phase of the case. After additional testimony set to begin on June 16, they will decide if Monfort should face the death penalty or life in prison.

 

The state currently has a moratorium on the death penalty.  Governor Jay Inslee has said no executions will happen in Washington State while he is in office.

Eric Peacock / Flickr

King County officials are asking local voters to support a property tax hike so local law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency first-responders can get an upgrade for their aging radio system. 

“It’s about 18 years old. And the problem is twofold," said Marlin Blizinsky, with the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network. "One is that the system is wearing out.”

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Small communities can be laboratories for societal change. That was one of the messages as a coalition of cities in King County celebrated commitments they’ve made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Leaders representing more than 60 percent of the county’s population have now signed on to goals outlined by the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.

King County WA / Flickr

The economy in King County is booming, but county government is planning to cut more than 500 jobs to balance its budget. King County Executive Dow Constantine says the problem is that state laws restrict the ability of local government to raise taxes to keep up with growth. 

Courtesy of King County Wastewater Division

Gov. Jay Inslee took a walk through King County’s wastewater facility in Discovery Park on Tuesday as part of his tour of sites affected by climate change. 

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

King County is poised to join the city of Seattle and several other municipalities in passing a resolution banning the burning and the transportation of coal in Washington state. 

King County Council member Larry Philips is leading the charge to bring the county on board with what towns and cities all over the region have already done: saying loud and clear that coal is not the answer to the future of energy. The opponents are calling for a comprehensive environmental review of the effects of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. 

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Children who live in homes with an unlocked gun are nine times more likely to commit suicide, according to data compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County between 1999 and 2012. The same data, released Monday, shows more than 5,000 of the county’s children live in homes with an unlocked firearm.

In response to the new findings, King County has launched the Safe Storage Saves Lives campaign through which ten local and national retailers will offer discounts on secure lockboxes, the county announced Monday.

Rogelio V. Soli / AP Photo

At least 82 King County workers have received advance layoff notices as a result of the partial federal government shutdown. The workers administer food assistance to women, infants, and children through the program known as WIC. That food aid is in jeopardy as the shutdown continues.

Associated Press

As the state continues to hone its licensing rules for recreational marijuana businesses, local governments are working on land-use regulations that will determine where they can go. King County has drafted a new zoning law for unincorporated areas and is seeking public comment before it’s finalized. 

Wonderlane photo / Flickr

The city of Seattle and King County will spend $1.46 billion on upgrades to public sewer systems aimed at reducing the amount of polluted water entering the Puget Sound and other waterways, according to a federal settlement filed under the Clean Water Act. 

Under the agreement, the city and county will also pay $750,000 in fines for dumping raw sewage into the Sound and several lakes. 

Gabriel Spitzer

If you're faced with a serious emergency, chances are you'll pick up the phone and call 9-1-1. But how about sending a text message instead?  It’s not something 9-1-1 operators can handle now. But, that could soon change.

Paula Wissel

In King County, the first marriage license to a same-sex couple was issued at exactly 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

People cheered as King County Executive Dow Constantine counted down and  declared, "Happy Marriage Equality Day."

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