The beaches at Golden Gardens and Discovery Park in Seattle are closed “out of an abundance of caution” after wastewater from the nearby West Point Treatment Plant spilled into Puget Sound on Thursday, according to the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.
The county said routine testing led to an “isolated power outage” on Thursday afternoon. The emergency bypass gate opened for about 20 minutes, allowing wastewater to flow into the Sound, according to the county.
“The gate was open to the marine outfall for approximately 20 minutes during very low flows,” the county announcement said. “No estimate of the volume of the bypass is available at this time.”
County employees have collected water samples for testing and the beaches are closed pending the results of those tests, the county said.
Portions of the Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap shoreline are also closed to water recreation, the state Department of Ecology said. It advised people to avoid contact with the water in those areas until further notice.
“Contact with fecal-contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses,” the Department of Ecology wrote. “Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.”
Earlier this year, the Metropolitan King County Council approved about $65 million in additional funding for the West Point plant, specifically for power upgrades.
Over the past 20 years, the plant has sent overflows of wastewater into the Sound 15 times after power disruptions caused equipment shutdowns when it was operating at or near capacity, King County Executive Dow Constantine said in requesting the additional funding. Most of those incidents happened in the last five years.
The plant treats the sewage and wastewater for Seattle, North King County and parts of South Snohomish County.
“West Point is a vital facility that protects the health of people and Puget Sound,” Constantine said in February. “Even a momentary disruption in the electrical power supply can have catastrophic results.”