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Climate change one of the 'biggest concerns' for Seattle wastewater treatment plant

King County's Wastewater Treatment Division says more than $600 million in upgrades are planned for the next decade.

SEATTLE — Millions of gallons of wastewater from homes and businesses from Seattle to parts of south Snohomish County are treated at King County's West Point Treatment Plant every day, with the city's combined storm-water/wastewater sewer system also flowing in. 

Right now, around two dozen major construction projects are underway -- part of a series of upgrades totaling more than $600 million over the next ten years. The projects will bolster the treatment plant against more frequent, more severe storms forecast to come with climate change.  

Projects will replace pumps and pipes, ensure earthquake resiliency and improve the power supply to the treatment plant. 

"We receive all of the flow, all the sewage from Seattle up to Snohomish County, down to the airport," said Operations Supervisor Sean Kehoe. "That's a lot of domestic and industrial wastewater and we're here 24/7, we're here every day of the year, and frankly, we do a great job."

The treatment plant is looking to reduce power sags and handle the effects of stronger storms, including higher wind and rain volumes. 

"Climate change expectations are probably one of our biggest challenges right now," Wastewater Treatment Division Communications Lead Marie Fiore said.

A power quality project will provide backup power from "uninterruptible sources," Fiore said, which will help the plant weather possible power disruption concerns, which have been an issue in the past. 

Along with power system upgrades, Kehoe says there is retrofitting work being done for seismic sustainability. They're also updating monitoring systems with tools made available as technology has improved.

"Most of the changes we're doing are to increase resiliency," Kehoe said. "And there's a lot of emphasis on preventing spills into the Sound."

Kehoe says they're also replacing gas lines and fixing things that, over time, wear out and have risk involved -- all of the necessities with a plant that is now more than fifty years old.

You can learn more about the work underway here.

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