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King County Council launches investigation into West Point wastewater ‘catastrophe’

SEATTLE – King County leaders want to know exactly what went wrong at the West Point wastewater treatment plant, which caused millions of gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater to be released into the Puget Sound.

King County Council members on Monday approved an independent investigation to look into the electrical and mechanical failures that may have led to massive flooding in the plant.

In the meantime, our rainy season isn’t over and some worry more wastewater could be pumped into the sound.

“It will be a forensic type of analysis that will be conducted,” said council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

The King County Council unanimously voted Monday to launch an independent investigation, tasked with finding out exactly what happened to seriously damage the treatment plant.

“This is a catastrophe some say on the order of Katrina, Hurricane Katrina,” said Kohl-Welles.

While nobody was hurt during the early February flooding, surging stormwater runoff and raw sewage gushed into Puget Sound and is now mingling with the salt water environment. The full impact on fish and other wildlife is still not clear.

“We’re all connected to the health of our waters,” said Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director Chris Wilke. “Whether you’re a fisherman, public recreation, walk on the back, the health of our waters impacts our community. This is our waste, Seattle and King County, we have to deal with this. We have to get this fixed."

The catastrophic failure at West Point, which is Seattle's Discovery Park, could also cost millions of dollars to repair – and pumping the untreated water into the sound violates federal regulations, which could also result in fines.

“There undoubtedly will be enormous cost involved with this and that’s before the state coming out, there will certainly be high penalties that will have to be paid,” said Kohl-Welles.

While spring is around the corner, the rainy season isn’t over. That’s something environmental watchdogs worry could lead to more polluted water being pumped into Puget Sound.

“It stopped discharging raw sewage but that could happen again as these rains increase,” said Wilke.

The council is hosting a community forum on Saturday. The event is free, open to the community and will be held at the Church of The Ascension.