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King County Launches Investigation Of Waste Treatment Facility

Parker Miles Blohm
The West Point Treatment Plant will undergo an investigation into what caused the failure that led to 30 million gallons of raw sewage to flow into the Puget Sound.

The King County Council has formally launched an investigation into what caused the catastrophic failure of its largest wastewater treatment facility in early February.


During the failure, about 30 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into Puget Sound. At 2 a.m. on February 9, catastrophic flooding shut down the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood.


A unanimous vote by the council has confirmed selection of a team of wastewater experts from the global engineering firm AECOM for the investigation.


Senior Vice President Sujan Punyamurthula assured council members his experts can meet their aggressive timeline and deliver a full and independent analysis of what happened.


“On average, each one of them probably have 30 to 40 years of experience. So they’ve done this. This is not their first rodeo,” he said.  "So we bring that experience and we are very confident that we’ll meet the schedule.”


The report is due on July 1. The team is comprised of 38 engineers, with experts in forensics, emergency response, electrical, geotechnical and hydraulic modeling.

Among the questions they’re answering is why a float switch failed and how to prevent it from ever happening again – both because of the danger it poses to the environment and to the county employees running the plant.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.

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