'It was a catastrophic event:' Treatment plant badly damaged in massive sewage spill

SEATTLE - Hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage and untreated water has poured into Puget Sound in the last week, and it's likely more will come.

During heavy rains last Thursday, officials said a wall of water hit the West Point Treatment Plant at the very same moment the massive pumps that push water out failed.

Millions of gallons of raw sewage and rainwater spilled out and filled one building at the plant to the ceiling, destroying nearly everything inside.

"We've never seen anything like it. It was a catastrophic event," said King County Wastewater Treatment Dir. Mark Isaacson.

Last week, more than 250 million gallons of liquid were discharged through an emergency overflow system. Officials said 10 to 15 percent of that was raw sewage, the rest of it was untreated runoff.

Then again on Wednesday morning, about 10 million more gallons had to be rerouted directly into Puget Sound due to heavy rains and officials are still trying to figure out how much was put out overnight into Thursday morning.

“Let’s be clear, we are not meeting our permit conditions we are required to meet," said Isaacson.

Inside the damage and devastation, raw sewage filled entire buildings.

"We got over 200 engines that need to be replaced," said Isaacson. "We’ve got over 100 electrical panels that are damaged, are toasted, are fried.”

The emergency pipe is located just 35 feet below the surface.

All the beaches surrounding Discovery Park are closed because the water isn't safe, though not everyone knows.

"I think I'm more concerned with like the fist and the whales and everything just because that chemical balance can be through off so easily," said Suz Ball, who visited Discovery Park on Thursday.

Kitsap County Public Health said it too has about 75 miles of shoreline has also been impacted. Warning signs are also posted on those beaches.

“We exist for public health, we exist for environmental health, right now we’re compromised on that.” said Isaacson.

Officials don't believe human error was a factor in the plant's failure. They're now investigating why some of the pumps failed during the storm and not others.

In the meantime, the plant is operating at half capacity and the water that is being processed is far from being fully treated.

Officials said it could be several weeks before everything is back to running normally at the West Point Treatment Plant. That means with every storm, more raw sewage could be flowing directly into Puget Sound.

The damage to the plant itself is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars, but the county said that will be covered by insurance.

The state is also closely monitoring the situation, King County officials said they won't be surprised if they face fines for being out of compliance.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off