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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Constantine demonstrates progress on making region's treatment plant more resilient to climate impacts as King County hosts national conference for clean water agencies

Summary

King County crews are preparing to install on-site batteries at West Point Treatment Plant, providing operators with an uninterruptable power supply when voltage sags occur. It’s the latest in a series of improvements to make the 56-year-old treatment plant more resilient to climate impacts.

Story

As King County hosts a four-day national conference of clean water agencies, Executive Dow Constantine showed progress toward making the region’s wastewater treatment system more resilient to climate impacts.

After expert analysis identified power interruptions occurring during high rain events as a primary driver of overflows at West Point Treatment Plant, Executive Constantine signed an emergency declaration in 2021 – along with his supplemental budget request that the King County Council approved – to make the electric power supply to the 56-year-old plant more reliable during severe wind and rainstorms. 

The emergency declaration fast-tracked the procurement process for a major capital project that will install on-site batteries, which King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division will now prepare to install. The new batteries will provide one of the largest treatment plants on the West Coast with an uninterruptable power supply when voltage sags occur. This will be especially valuable during heavy rainstorms, which are occurring more frequently as a result of climate change.

“We are modernizing and upgrading West Point Treatment Plant, providing our well-trained crews with the reliable, high-quality power they need to protect Puget Sound 24/7, especially as we experience more frequent and severe storms,” said Executive Constantine. “By building on the improvements we have made in recent years, we will make this critical infrastructure more resilient, more efficient, and better equipped for climate impacts.”

"Seattle is a city defined by water from our lakes and urban creeks to the Duwamish River and the Puget Sound. Clean water, resilient infrastructure, and healthy communities are core to a thriving One Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “We'll continue to take action on innovative solutions to confront water quality challenges like climate change, excessive nutrients, and emerging contaminants. We'll continue to work with King County and all of our partners toward that mission."

“These improvements to power reliability at West Point are crucial to protect water quality in King County. Water is one of our most precious and essential resources, and healthy waterways are vital for the many animals living within them, including salmon, orcas, seals, and of course humans as we play and recreate in the water," said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. "I’m very glad that the Executive proposed and that Council approved this important investment in West Point which is in my district but is critical for the entire region.”

The Wastewater Treatment Division over the next decade will invest more than $660 million in West Point capital projects that will replace pumps and pipes, which have been continuously operating since the plant opened in 1966. Crews are also retrofitting the facility for seismic upgrades, making the plant more energy efficient, and improving worker safety.

This will build on improvements that the division has made in recent years to make the treatment plant safer and more reliable, which included enhanced staff training, installing new electrical and control systems, and adding redundancy at pump stations.

West Point recently made it through a particularly challenging wet weather season despite multiple voltage sags that in the past would have likely caused a bypass or an overflow. Several factors contributed to the success:

  • Outstanding performance by frontline employees who have received additional training
  • Recent improvements at the plant, such as recalibrating the pumps to make them less sensitive to power fluctuations
  • A partnership with Seattle City Light to temporarily isolate a key transformer and identify other improvements to power infrastructure to help ensure reliable, high-quality power

While these new projects build on recent progress, West Point will be particularly vulnerable to power fluctuations during the next few years. The transformer that is temporarily isolated from other customers will not be dedicated to just West Point through most of 2023 when Seattle City Light conducts a large-scale power grid upgrade. 

With West Point’s location surrounded by both Puget Sound and Discovery Park, there aren’t options to expand the campus, so the project team must first create enough space on the existing property before the on-site batteries can be installed. This means demolishing a building on the campus to make room for battery storage.

King County hosting a national celebration of the Clean Water Act’s 50th anniversary

Executive Constantine this morning delivered remarks at an annual leadership conference organized by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. The organization selected Seattle as the host city as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a seminal achievement for the nation’s environmental movement

Several advocates and experts who created the precursor to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies – including Jim Ellis and Tim Gibbs, among others – were from King County.

All five of King County’s wastewater treatment plants achieved Peak Performance Awards during this year's national leadership conference. The King County Wastewater Treatment Division was awarded Platinum for its Brightwater and Vashon Plants, Gold for South Plant and West Point, and Silver for its Carnation Plant.


Relevant links


Quotes

We are modernizing and upgrading West Point Treatment Plant, providing our well-trained crews with the reliable, high-quality power they need to protect Puget Sound 24/7, especially as we experience more frequent and severe storms. By building on the improvements we have made in recent years, we will make this critical infrastructure more resilient, more efficient, and better equipped for climate impacts.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Seattle is a city defined by water from our lakes and urban creeks to the Duwamish River and the Puget Sound. Clean water, resilient infrastructure, and healthy communities are core to a thriving One Seattle. We'll continue to take action on innovative solutions to confront water quality challenges like climate change, excessive nutrients, and emerging contaminants. We'll continue to work with King County and all of our partners toward that mission.

Bruce Harrell, Seattle Mayor

These improvements to power reliability at West Point are crucial to protect water quality in King County. Water is one of our most precious and essential resources, and healthy waterways are vital for the many animals living within them, including salmon, orcas, seals, and of course humans as we play and recreate in the water. I’m very glad that the Executive proposed and that Council approved this important investment in West Point which is in my district but is critical for the entire region.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Councilmember

For more information, contact:

Marie Fiore, Wastewater Treatment Division, 206-263-0284

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography