SEATTLE – Clean water activists are focusing on the area around the West Point wastewater treatment facility at Discovery Park after historic damage sent hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated discharge in Puget Sound.
Discovery Park is busy with crabbing boats and marine life, along with hikers and tourists. It's now also busy with signs warning people to be less busy swimming and fishing.
The water is contaminated.
A couple weeks ago, flooding damaged equipment at the West Point plant, which is currently running at half capacity. More rain last week sent the plant into emergency bypass mode, releasing between 6 million and 10 million gallons of wastewater.
"This is our waste. We have a responsibility to keep this water clean," said Chris Wilke, Puget Sounderkeeper Alliance executive director.
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is a clean water activist organization that's concerned about the health of Puget Sound. Wilke believes the immediate pollution is bad enough, but it's not all they're monitoring.
"There's a broader risk here. The amount of nutrients being discharged that could affect algal blooms in the coming summer," he said. "You have to remember this is more than human waste and shower and sink waste. It's also industrial waste in it and other chemicals that we're trying to treat and keep out of the environment. What is the long-term fate of those chemicals?"
There have been no more releases of completely untreated water since last week, according to King County. However, daily discharges of wastewater are still a problem. It's sent through primary but not secondary treatment, and will not be fully treated until broken equipment is fixed.
That means the wastewater continues to violate King County's permit with the Department of Ecology, who says the county will likely have to pay fines but can't estimate how big those fines will be.
"The permit is written with very strict standards for a reason. Those standards are in place to protect human health and wildlife in Puget Sound," Wilke said. "My biggest concern right now is, what is the extent of this impact? Does it reach all the way to Alki? Does it reach all the way to Vashon Island or Edmonds?"