UPDATE: 101,000-gallon pump station overflow closes Fauntleroy beaches

(Added 10:09 am: WSB photo)

9:09 AM: The King County Wastewater Treatment Division says Monday night’s thunderstorms led to a “power interruption” that resulted in a “brief overflow” from Barton Pump Station on the north side of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. They aren’t saying yet how long it lasted or how much wastewater overflowed, but they’ve closed the beaches at Lincoln and Cove Parks “until water quality testing confirms the water is safe.”

2:07 PM: KCWTD has answered our followup questions. First – the overflow volume is estimated at more than 101,000 gallons. KCWTD spokesperson Doug Williams says it was actually two overflows:

The station experienced a power bump (poor power quality that was not consistent) at 7:12 p.m. that triggered a fault in the pump. The standby operator was dispatched to the pump station to reset the pumps. There were two short overflow events, one for 12 minutes and the other for 11 minutes.

We also asked how and when the KCWTD crew was notified and when they arrived:

The pump sent an alarm, which was received by Main Control at West Point Treatment Plant, and a standby operator was immediately dispatched. The operator arrived at the pump station at 7:47 p.m. The pumps were reset by 7:48 p.m. The operator left, having fixed the problem, but returned at 8:30 p.m. after another power bump caused an alarm at 8:08 p.m.

This pump station was “upgraded” in 2015, so we asked why there wasn’t some sort of failsafe or backup to prevent this:

We are still evaluating the incident and pump performance. We suspect that inconsistent power quality shut the pump down, as it is designed to protect the equipment from fluctuating power (much like a surge protector, or tripped breaker in your home). Power monitoring equipment at the station showed that there was no loss of power, so the incident was initiated by poor power quality received at the station. Since there was no loss of power, the onsite generator was not engaged. The power seemed to surge and flicker, causing two different short overflows of 12 and 11 minutes (from 7:36 – 7:48 p.m., and again at 8:19 – 8:30 p.m.).

19 Replies to "UPDATE: 101,000-gallon pump station overflow closes Fauntleroy beaches"

  • 937 February 15, 2023 (11:38 am)

    Where are all the people calling for the Harbor West owner’s responsibility??Guess its OK if Holy Government pollutes…Hypocrisy…

    • CarDriver February 15, 2023 (3:33 pm)

      937. All those people are “whistling past the graveyard.” They’re the ones jumping up and down screaming pointing fingers at all those “polluters”. But when the fingers get pointed at THEM they pull a Houdini while holding a halo over their heads.

    • Jethro Marx February 15, 2023 (4:08 pm)

      Here I am.  I don’t like pollution that comes from a government entity any more than from a poorly maintained private party sewer.  Heck I don’t even really like government entities. But Harbor West has a pretty clear (if short-sighted) monetary benefit from shirking their sewer maintenance, as well as a pretty clear track record of doing so.  No one at the wastewater treatment plant benefits when they screw up.  This can’t be a real mystery to you, but I know people do like to complain and come up with theories about things.  

      • CarDriver February 15, 2023 (5:59 pm)

        Jethro Marx. Having read homeowners comments concerning Harbor West my point is that homes are capable of sewer leaks. I’m willing to bet that while homeowners are happy and smug to point out and demand fines for leaks in buildings such as Harbor West (I don’t live there nor know anyone who does) they’ll cry foul if they’re called out as much as they like to call out “others”. As far as municipal leaks. Nobody will be held accountable. We, the taxpayers will be paying and that will be it.

        • WestSeattleBadTakes February 16, 2023 (11:23 am)

          What would accountability look like for you in this situation?

    • RickB February 15, 2023 (6:16 pm)

      Lol at coming in here just a couple hours after the story is posted, during a workday, to cry about a lack of commentary on the spill. Agenda-driven much?

  • Niko February 15, 2023 (12:37 pm)

    This is absolute BS! Where’s the accountability and punishment for those responsible?! If your average Joe dropped 1 gallon of sewage off their boat and the local government found out they would be up there you know what with fines and all kinds of stuff. Yet this happens excessively and in far greater quantities than any illegal dumping and government just shrugs their shoulders

    • Jim February 15, 2023 (4:39 pm)

      The article is interesting but a hundred grand of the taxpayer is money doesn’t fix the problem nor does it seem to punish those that were responsible just the agency/county. Yet in all this time they still haven’t put generators in when we periodically lose power during storms.

      • WSB February 15, 2023 (6:52 pm)

        Yes, there IS a generator; see the last paragraph. The problem is that it didn’t activate.

  • Matt February 15, 2023 (4:12 pm)

    I worked in wastewater and know that even a gallon is cause for a spill-to-ground fine. King county is going to get fined for tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe up to a hundred thousand. The department of ecology takes this very seriously.

    • EchoMike February 15, 2023 (6:00 pm)

      Maybe the fines should be increased to a point that it incentivizes upgrades that prevent actual overflow events? Just thinking out loud here. If the costs of the upgrades are 7-figures, but the fines are in the low 6-figures (potentially) – the facility (not having a bleeding heart for the environment) makes the fiscal decision to absorb the fine. It’s cheaper that way.

    • John February 17, 2023 (4:55 am)

      I think people should be fire rather than just a shell game of the taxpayers money going from our pockets to an incompetent agency to another agency having to find the incompetent agency

  • Shannon Williams February 15, 2023 (6:30 pm)

    What about all the animals? Seals, birds, otters?They need to do some cleaning while they’re waiting. 😠

    • HW February 16, 2023 (5:56 pm)

      I saw a seal out there yesterday (Wednesday the 15) and was thinking the same thing. is the water dirty enough to cause illness or harm to those animals that quickly? What about all the birds that live in that pocket?

  • Bob W. February 15, 2023 (8:25 pm)

    “…the onsite generator was not engaged”

    Yes, it looks like the system is purposely set to not switch over to the on-site diesel generator unless the power is totally out… zero volts.

    Unfortunately, the pump equipment stops working when the voltage gets very low, and malfunctions when the power wildly fluctuates from the normal voltage range, sometimes causing extensive sewage flooding.

    This type of failure is caused by continuing to use crude and outdated controller circuitry. The City has purposely ignored it, and intends to ignore it some more.

    This is a case study in How Not To Do It. The City of Seattle needs to find a competent engineer somewhere.

    • WSB February 15, 2023 (8:29 pm)

      Data point, this is NOT a city facility. It is owned and operated by King County. – TR

  • Dan February 16, 2023 (7:18 am)

    When SPU has a spill and has to pay a fine (which they have and do) the money is actually paid with your water, sewer bill….

    • Jim February 17, 2023 (4:57 am)

      Exactly! They need to start firing people and directly finding those that are incompetent instead of just dumping off their screw up on the taxpayers

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