West Seattle, Washington
Four days after a sewage leak was detected and repaired at Lincoln Park, testing shows the beaches in the area are safe to use again. That’s the word from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, which is responsible for the equipment that failed and caused the leak – an air valve in a vault along a “force main” that carries wastewater and stormwater north from the Barton Pump Station north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. KCWTD spokesperson Marie Fiore says they estimate 13,000 gallons had leaked before th problem was fixed, but they don’t know how much of that got into Puget Sound, as some of it was contained by the vault and pumped out by Seattle Public Utilities before crews zeroed in on the problem and handed it off to the county. Fiore told us earlier this week that the vault is inspected frequently and had gone through an inspection less than two weeks before the valve failure.
1:28 PM: Here’s what more we’ve found out about the Lincoln Park sewage/wastewater leak first reported here Sunday afternoon. King County Wastewater Treatment Division spokesperson Marie Fiore says it was not a broken pipe but a malfunctioning valve in an underground vault along the line. Since the county’s Barton Pump Station pumps “intermittently,” the leak wasn’t major, she said – the wastewater (combined sewage/stormwater) that had spilled into the vault has been removed with suction equipment, and repairs are complete. Since an undetermined amount of wastewater did make it onto the beach and into Puget Sound, they’ll keep the beach closed as a precaution while they test the water to be sure it’s safe. We asked if the valve that malfunctioned was part of what was replaced in that area in 2006 or was part of the 2015 pump-station upgrade; Fiore is checking on that. She did say the vault is inspected multiple times per month, most recently November 15th.
7:59 PM: Fiore confirms that the “force main” in that area was replaced in 2006; what malfunctioned in this situation was “an air valve” which was replaced as part of the repairs done Sunday.
3:25 PM: Thanks for sending the tips and photo. A crew is working along the Lincoln Park beachfront trail, with signage warning that the problem involves “raw sewage.” We have inquiries out to try to find out what happened.
4:34 PM: Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells WSB it’s a King Cpunty Wastewater Treatment issue – SPU “responded to the overflow earlier today and checked all of our assets in and around pump station 42, and crews did not find any issues. We are working with our County partners as they take over the response and regulatory reporting.” So now we’re checking with KCWTD.
6:30 PM: We talked briefly with KCWTD spokesperson Marie Fiore, who said the problem was with the Barton Pump Station (north of the ferry dock) but she was still awaiting more information on what exactly had happened.
10:08 PM: No additional major details but KCWTD just sent a statement:
King County Wastewater Treatment Division workers quickly responded to a combined sewer leak on Sunday afternoon. Seattle Public Utilities, who had initially responded to the issue, alerted county staff. The leak caused a combination of stormwater and wastewater to enter the beach at Lincoln Park, along a public trail.
A King County wastewater crew responding to the incident was able to locate the breach in the line and begin temporary repairs to stop the leak. Crews also began cleanup efforts and will post additional caution/closure signs.
King County reported the overflow to health and regulatory agencies and will begin water quality testing near Lincoln Park Beach and the Barton Pump Station. The beach is expected to be closed until several days of water testing confirm the water is safe.
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
For the second year in a row, volunteer watchers tallied an exceptional number of coho spawners – 254! – in Fauntleroy Creek. This count exceeded last year’s 244 by 10, putting it in the No. 2 position behind 2012’s all-time high of 274.
Volunteers saw the first spawners in modern memory in 1994 and began organized watches in 1999. This year’s watch ran Oct. 16 – Nov. 22, with fish seen October 25 – November 15.
Why such a high number two years in a row? Veteran creek steward Dennis Hinton gives a lot of credit to human intervention.
“Three out of the last four years, volunteers have had to relocate drift logs at the creek mouth to ensure spawners could get in from Fauntleroy Cove. Most years, we’ve left them alone in the belief that they would float at high tide. This year’s log jam was especially tight, however. After we got the necessary state permit, Mark Sears led a work party in mid October to clear a path, then he and Tom Trulin checked the logs daily. This diligence paid off.”
Another likely factor, Dennis said, was that this was an especially good year for salmon returning to Puget Sound. A super pod of orcas (J, K, and L) was in the area for several days and they would not have been here without finding ample fish to eat.
Other factors: High tides, paired with low barometric pressure, gave spawners the lift they needed to enter the creek. And precipitation was sufficient to flush the creek so that they could smell fresh water.
The spawner number was not the only count of note.
“We had a real uptick in public awareness and volunteerism this year,” Dennis said. “More than two dozen watchers took turns documenting spawners and talking with visitors. Judy Pickens and Phil Sweetland opened their property so that an exceptional 440-plus people of all ages could get to creek level.”
Watchers noted where they saw spawning, and volunteers will be checking those locations this winter for “home hatch” fry to emerge from their gravel redds. They also noted a lot of fingerlings from last year’s spawning as well as cutthroat trout in for the thousands of coho eggs displaced when late spawners dug out the redds of early spawners.
To learn more about the creek, current volunteer opportunities, and the watershed stewardship fund for habitat maintenance, visit fauntleroywatershed.org.
(King County video)
Four and a half years after construction began by the north end of the 1st Avenue South Bridge, the Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station is ready to be put into operation. Next big rainstorm, the King County Wastewater Treatment Division says, the quarter-billion-dollar facility [map] will start treating stormwater that otherwise would overflow, untreated, directly into the Duwamish River. Though it’s ready to do that job, the facility does have a little more work ahead, according to today’s announcement: “King County will install art features early next year. One will light up the facility as water moves through the treatment process. Another will recreate rain events inside a 35-foot-high clear cylinder.” Meantime, as we’ve been reporting, KCWTD has another facility in the works to protect the Duwamish River – a 1.25-million-gallon overflow storage tank in southeast West Seattle, near the south end of the 1st Avenue South Bridge. The West Duwamish Wet Weather Storage Facility is being designed right now and expected to start construction in 2025.
New estimate for shore-power use to start at Terminal 5 in West Seattle: Early next year. We’ve been reporting on the problems getting the modernized terminal’s new feature activated, so that many of the cargo ships using T-5 won’t have to burn fuel running their generators while in port. First, it was a subject of labor negotiations. Then once those were worked out, the Northwest Seaport Alliance – which oversees cargo terminals in Seattle and Tacoma – said a technical problem surfaced. They were still figuring out how to solve that problem at the time of our most recent report earlier this month. We followed up again this week; NWSA spokesperson Melanie Stambaugh told WSB that they’ve made progress: “The project team, alongside the terminal operator and ocean carrier, has identified a solution for the shore power plug-in configuration and will be installing and testing the shore power capability in December.” But, she says, that’s not expected to lead to operational use before January: “It is anticipated that the use of the shore power system is expected to begin in Q1 2023.” By that time T-1 will have been open a year.
Lincoln Park is a little greener today thanks to the work by those volunteers, led by Friends of Lincoln Park, during Green Seattle Day on Saturday. FLiP forest steward Lisa McGinty sent photos and video with this recap:
50 volunteers helped put 365 native trees and plants in the ground. Add to that, it was just a great opportunity for community to gather and to feel a bit more connected to the land and our relationship to nature.
While we worked, we were treated to acoustic music by three WSHS students of the band The Potholes (their full band played the last set at the Junction Harvest Festival yesterday).
And members from the WSHS Earth Club helped with setup/volunteer sign-in and planting! The weather was great too. A Perfect day all around and I’m still smiling
Watch here for future opportunities to help!
You might have noticed that the former Q Cleaners at 4744 California SW in The Junction is now Alex Dry Cleaners. Its new namesake was the owner of House of Kleen at 4425 Fauntleroy Way SW in The Triangle, which closed last week and posted this sign:
There won’t be a replacement in that building, though, because it’s slated for demolition. The 56-year-old building will be torn down so contaminated soil can be cleaned up. We first noticed an early permit filing for this in the city system more than half a year ago, but couldn’t confirm what would happen to the business until now. The property owner told us at the time that their plan was simply for cleanup, adding, “There are no further plans for future redevelopment.” (But it should be noted that the site is close to what would be the Avalon light-rail station if Sound Transit‘s current “preferred alternative” gets final approval.)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With SDOT director Greg Spotts canceling his appearance, most of HPAC‘s monthly meeting Wednesday night focused on the “natural drainage” project newly surfaced for part of SW Holden in Highland Park.
This is far from the first “natural drainage” project in West Seattle; others planned and built by both city and county agencies over the past decade have gone by names including “green stormwater infrastructure” (2011), “bioswales” (2012), and “roadside raingardens” (2014). This time, the “natural drainage” features are proposed for the south side of SW Holden between 16th and 17th, plus the east side of a half-block of 17th south of Holden.
So why that particular section of street? we asked when the meeting got to Q&A. The SPU team in attendance had started their presentation with some generalities about Longfellow Creek pollution and this area being part of the creek’s watershed. Salmon in Longfellow Creek die before spawning at a higher rate than any other creek in the city, they said. So their goal is to “naturally” filter rainwater before it gets to the street and carries vehicle-related toxins into the creek. But no specifics about why this specific block, until they answered our question: SDOT approached SPU about “doing a project” there. SDOT says the street is too wide for its classification as a “residential” street, so there’s room for it. The SPU team said that as part of the project, the curb on the south side of the street would be “bumped out” five feet.
They said the project wasn’t expected to extend further west because of “obstacles” including a gas pipeline. How much street parking would be lost? Kuo insisted they didn’t know yet, since design doesn’t start in earnest until early next year. Before then, they want feedback, she said, so that’s why they went to HPAC.
In addition to the extended curb, they revealed a few more aspects of the project plan. SPU will maintain the project area, they said, adding that they in fact “prefer that (residents) NOT” try to do maintenance. The project will be built north of the existing sidewalk; none of that will be replaced unless there’s damage during the construction process. Some street trees will be removed, but they don’t have a count yet, and they noted the city’s policy of requiring two trees to be planted for every tree removed. (Not necessarily in the same area, though.)
One point of concern in the project zone is the city-owned ex-substation on the southwest corner of 16th/Holden. Despite much discussion in recent years, its future has yet to be determined. An attendee voiced fear that any work at that corner would be torn out when the site is finally redeveloped.
The project team also heard a complaint that this was just becoming public now, when it obviously has been planned for a while (though construction isn’t expected until 2024 or 2025). They said they’re doing what they can to inform everyone now, from doorknocking to mailing a flyer. The project website is here and includes contact information for Kuo, if you have feedback.
ALSO AT HPAC’S MEETING: A few quick notes – gratitude for Seattle Parks‘ recent trail refresh at Riverview Playfield and SDOT’s revision of its south-side sidewalk; the Trick or Trees event with something for everyone (details here) on Saturday afternoon; and an artist selection for the Highland Park Way/Holden intersection improvements’ public-art installation – the art will be a “gigantic Steller’s Jay.” (We’re following up to find out more.) Also, HPAC had a visitor from the Fauntleroy Community Association, continuing to solicit other West Seattle community organizations’ support for its opposition to expanding the ferry dock when it’s rebuilt.
NEXT MEETING: Watch hpacws.org for updates.
On a rainy night, we have an update on another “natural-drainage systems” project in West Seattle – this time in Highland Park. These are the types of installations that have previously gone by names such as “roadside raingardens.” If you have questions about it, you’ll have a chance to ask project reps from Seattle Public Utilities during Wednesday night’s HPAC meeting. An info-sheet sent to nearby residents (see it here) says the project will be built along SW Holden between 16th SW and 17th SW and on a half-block of the east side of 17th. SPU is working with SDOT because the project will involve street changes too:
• Natural Drainage Systems: Natural drainage systems will help improve stormwater drainage and remove
pollutants from stormwater runoff to improve water quality in Longfellow Creek.
• Roadway Improvements: This project will include roadway improvements, such as curb bulbs, ADA ramps, and landscape plantings.
Community input, alongside technical evaluations, will be essential during each project phase. The project team will work with impacted neighbors and community members to understand important issues in the neighborhood and identify feasible and appropriate locations for natural drainage systems. Community members will be able to share their input through a variety of online and in-person activities and surveys. Community engagement will be ongoing through all phases of the project – planning, design, and construction.
There’s more project info on the official website, where you’ll also see how to participate in/watch tomorrow night’s online meeting, which starts at 7 pm. SPU says the design starts early next year, and construction is expected in 2024-2025.
2:24 PM: That’s how it looked from Don Armeni Boat Ramp at midday today, and the online readings indicate it’s only gotten worse – right now those levels are higher than anything we’ve seen in repeated real-time-map checks during this early-fall smoke. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has officially extended the regional air-quality alert seven more hours, until midnight tomorrow night. And the air (lack of) quality is having other effects – just heard over Seattle Fire radio, for example, an order for all firefighters to cease non-essential activities such as training and head back to their stations. If you have to go outside, and are wondering if a mask would help, here’s a state fact sheet about that. As for what to do to protect indoor air quality, this page has some suggestions about that. Yes, rain is still expected by Friday.
3:37 PM: Seattle Public Utilities just announced that it’s closing transfer stations for the rest of the day because of the high smoke-pollution levels. … We saw a few headlines going by elsewhere declaring Seattle currently has “the worst air in the world” and verified that it’s the worst CITY air in the world right now – see the real-time worldwide list here.
THURSDAY PM NOTE: The alert has been extended again, until 10 am Friday.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Thanks to David Hutchinson for the photo of a barely visible ferry passing Duwamish Head this morning. The fog has mostly made way for sunshine but it’s also lifted the veil on more wildfire smoke. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has issued another air-quality alert, in effect until 5 pm Thursday; the National Weather Service is still predicting rain to clear things up starting Friday afternoon. Meantime, be careful if you have to go outside; here are the latest air-quality readings, and here’s advice from AlertSeattle.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: As Vid notes in comments, the alert has been extended until midnight Thursday night.
The five-week-old Bolt Creek Fire isn’t the only one that’s been sending smoke our way. Two other fires have come into view east of Seattle – the photo above was tweeted tonight by Kevin Freitas, who has that view from one of West Seattle’s higher elevations, near Providence Mount St. Vincent (Beacon Hill is in the foreground). Earlier today, Eastside Fire and Rescue noted that the Loch Katrine and Murphy Lake fires had come into view from this side of the Cascades. Right now, West Seattle has better air quality than North Seattle (as shown here), after a day in which the high-temperature at Sea-Tac Airport smashed the old record for this date – 88, previous record 72. The forecast still suggests rain is expected, finally, by Friday.
A one-day, multi-site boost for the Duwamish River and its watershed is just hours away. The fall Duwamish Alive! volunteer restoration events are tomorrow, and it all starts with an opening ceremony in West Seattle. Here’s the reminder from the Duwamish Alive! Coalition:
The popular community autumn event Duwamish Alive! is restoring local native habitat on Saturday, October 15th at urban parks and open spaces throughout the Green-Duwamish Watershed to support the environmental health of the river and wildlife. Starting at 10:00 am, volunteers at multiple Duwamish sites will participate in a day of major cleanup and habitat restoration in the ongoing effort to keep our river alive and healthy for our communities, salmon, and Puget Sound . The Green-Duwamish River is home to the critical Chinook salmon which the Southern Resident Orcas depend upon for food.
The community is invited to opening ceremonies at həʔapus Village Park & Shoreline Habitat, 4750 W. Marginal Way SW starting at 10:00 to learn more about the efforts to address pollution issues of the river, salmon recovery and community efforts. Speakers include Sean Dixon, Executive Director of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance; Matt Goehring, Salmon Recovery Manager for the Green-Duwamish Watershed; and Paulina López, Executive Director of the Duwamish River Community Coalition. Volunteers will be removing trash from the river on kayaks, planting native plants and removing invasive plants. Volunteer opportunities are still available – for more information, visit Duwamishalive.org
Duwamish Alive! is a collaborative stewardship effort of conservation groups, businesses, and government entities, recognizing that our collective efforts are needed to make lasting, positive improvements in the health and vitality of the Green-Duwamish Watershed. Twice a year these events organize hundreds of volunteers to work at multiple sites in the river’s watershed, connecting the efforts of communities from Seattle to Auburn.
That’s the murky view of south Bainbridge Island from Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook a short time ago. The wildfire smoke is back and expected to hang around a while. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has announced an air-quality alert, but it doesn’t officially kick in for King County until 5 pm Friday, despite all the smoke out there right now and the readings shown on this map. The alert is expected to stay in place all weekend. (Here’s the latest on the big wildfire that’s causing this.)
The current air-quality alert is still set to expire at midnight, though smoke from the Bolt Creek Fire continues to degrade our air quality. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency‘s Sunday update says “strong onshore winds” are expected to clear some of it out on Monday, and the forecast indeed says wind could be gusting up to 25 mph by Monday night.
We’ve reported before on The Heron’s Nest, land between Puget Park and West Marginal Way SW that’s in the process of being restored and repatriated to the Duwamish Tribe. The nonprofit that’s been working on this is inviting you to a benefit celebration at the site this Saturday night – when the weather should be perfect for an outdoor event:
Saturday, October 8th: Fundraiser & Auction:
4-9 pm – Join us at The Heron’s Nest (4818 Puget Way SW)
Welcoming to the space by Ken Workman of Duwamish Tribal Council
Silent Auction, Raffle Prizes, Coast Salish Stories by Pamela Bond, Documentary Trailer Screening (Road to Recognition), Live performances, Dinner, Drinks, and more!
$50 tickets include two meal tickets, two 21+ drink tickets, two raffle tickets
Tickets are available online here.
Once again tonight, we have lower air quality because of smoke from the three-week-old Bolt Creek Fire, which continues to color the sky at sunset. The photo above is from Gene Pavola, with a state ferry; the one below is from David Hutchinson, with a Water Taxi:
If you’re concerned about Southern Resident Killer Whales – still languishing with historically low population numbers – here’s a simple way to help. The one-day volunteer event Duwamish Alive! is back at full strength this fall with the theme “Saving Our Salmon Saves Our Orcas.” Just clear your calendar for 10 am-2 pm Saturday, October 15th – even if you can’t volunteer. The announcement from the Duwamish Alive! Coalition explains:
With the latest news about our Southern Resident Orcas, saving our river’s salmon – especially chinook, which the orcas need – is critical to their survival. Join us for a day of restoring the health of our watershed and salmon habitat at sites from Seattle to Auburn. The Green-Duwamish Watershed will be alive with hundreds of volunteers working throughout it to improve the health of its habitat and water for salmon, orcas, wildlife, and communities . This collaborative effort brings together many organizations and municipalities to highlight the complexity of our watershed and its importance to our region in restoring its health and the salmon that depend upon it. We will be working in the upland forests, along and in the river, its tributaries, and wetlands from Seattle to Auburn.
Because our watershed is important to the survival of our Southern Resident Orcas, we are also partnering with Conservation Districts’ Orca Recovery Day event throughout the region. We will be hosting not only volunteering opportunities, but at many of our sites we will have community engagement/educational activities for the broader community to enjoy. This is a family-friendly event, with all ages welcome. Tools and instruction are provided. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For site information and registration: duwamishalive.org
As you’ll see on that page, six of the restoration sites are in West Seattle; you can join an on-the-water event on the Duwamish River, too.
Received from Michelle:
I am still suffering from shortness of breath after a walk down the (south end) of Beach Drive to the entrance of Lincoln Park about an hour ago. A (building) has been demolished and the dust in the air (most of which, my guess, is not healthy) is heavy. I came home to find a layer of dust in my hair, skin, and clothing. And, like I said, I am having trouble breathing comfortably. I need to shower and wash these clothes. I recommend those with mold or dust sensitivities or those with pets to avoid this area right now. Had I known, I would have gone a different direction. So, I thought I would let you now so that you can alert others.
The total’s in from last Sunday’s Recycle Roundup at Fauntleroy Church. Judy Pickens reports:
485 people took advantage of 1 Green Planet’s free, responsible recycling. The day’s take of just over 16 tons brings the total since these roundups began, in 2010, to more than 322 tons.
The spring event will be on Earth Day, April 22. These roundups will continue on Saturdays instead of Sundays so that 1 Green Planet can expedite service with a larger crew.
At today’s celebration of the shoreline-restoration project at Lowman Beach Park, Duwamish Tribe member Ken Workman shared the area’s historic name: gWal, or “capsize.” That certainly was once a risk for the at-times-controversial project, which took years of building public support and seeking grant funding to become reality. The project was originally centered on removing the crumbling north seawall at Lowman, but expanded to removing its beloved waterfront tennis court and daylighting the end of Pelly Creek.
The creek end won’t really come into its own until the fall/winter rains. But the expanded shore that replaced all but a small northern stub of seawall has been a joy for park visitors since the project’s completion earlier this summer:
Before this morning’s ribboncutting, there were speeches, emceed by Deb Barker, president of the Morgan Community Association, which hosted many community discussions about Lowman – as she observed, “This kind of project isn’t supposed to happen,” and yet it beat the odds:
Other speakers in our video were Workman, deputy mayor Greg Wong, who marveled at Lowman’s natural beauty, longtime acting Parks superintendent (and former West Seattleite) Christopher Williams, and Kathryn Gardow, representing the state agency that provided some of the funding. They were all joined in the ribbon-cutting by two local students, Ken from Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) and Ezra from Gatewood Elementary. The celebration also featured The Whale Trail – Lowman is a great spot for shore-based whale-watching – and Alki Kayak Tours/Mountain to Sound Outfitters (WSB sponsor) with stand-up paddleboarding demos. Williams also acknowledged the community:
Not only did nearby residents endure months of work on this project, but as Williams observed, they also had been through years of work on King County’s Murray Wet Weather Facility across the street (dedicated in 2017). His acknowledgment also included the Parks managers who made the project happen – David Graves shepherded it for years, including seeking grants:
And Janice Liang managed the project through its construction:
P.S. Looking into our archives for this story, we found this 2010 WSB clip with a 360-degree view of what Lowman Beach Park used to look like (not only before this project, but before the overflow facility across the street, which replaced a block of residences).
No waiting in the lot at Fauntleroy Church when we went over to check on the early turnout at today’s Recycle Roundup. Just drive/ride/walk into the lot at 9140 California SW, and the crews from 1 Green Planet will assist you in getting your recyclables into one of their big green containers..
This is free (though you can donate to help them cover the costs if you want to). The list of what they’re accepting, and not accepting, this time is here.