Officials say damage to sewage plant in Discovery Park is catastrophic

The plant suffered catastrophic damage on Feb. 9 and will not return to regular service for many weeks, according to Mark Isaacson, director of the King County’s wastewater-treatment division.

King County has stopped dumping raw sewage into Puget Sound from its crippled West Point treatment plant for now — but the county will likely start dumping again when rainy weather returns.

The plant, which treats sewage from 1.7 million people around the Seattle region, suffered catastrophic damage on Feb. 9 and will not resume regular service for many weeks, according to Mark Isaacson, director of the King County’s wastewater-treatment division.

Beaches at Discovery Park are closed, with no date yet for reopening, because of the risk to public health from raw sewage pumped from the plant into the Sound. “We are here for the health of the environment, and for public health, and right now, we are compromising that,” said Isaacson.

The trouble started when the pump station that sends treated wastewater out of the plant failed, according to a letter from plant managers sent Wednesday to King County’s regulators.

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Staff on duty about 2:15 a.m., Feb. 9, worked to reduce the incoming flow while attempting — unsuccessfully — to restart the 2,250-horsepower motors on the pumps. As water levels in the plant continued to rise, staff next worked to manually intervene to stop pumps bringing more incoming flow.

That caused the upstream levels of sewage entering the plant to rise, triggering an emergency bypass gate to automatically open. That diverts raw sewage away from the plant and into an emergency outfall pipe to Puget Sound, as a desperate measure to save the plant.

By then the plant was already flooded, with a barrage of some 15 million gallons of water barreling through it, powerful enough to buckle and break down 25-foot-high garage doors, mangle equipment and…

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