Water Wasted in Seattle

Water is a valuable resource that is fundamental to the life of any living being. However, water is taken for granted in many societies. Many individuals never think about water since they assume that this resource is always available. According to Scientific American, the US’ water use measures at 1.05 billion cubic meters in a year, a figure that is close to China and India that have a higher population density as compared to the USA (Wesley, 2016). According to the research, an individual in the USA uses more water than any other person in the world. Moreover, the usage of great amount of water usually translates to high levels of wastewater (Wesley, 2016). When wastewater is discharged to the environment without meeting the necessary water quality standards, both human and animal lives are threatened. Quality water treatment programs are essential to ensure sustainable water resources for the current and future generations (“’Emegency’ at Seattle Wastewater plant,” 2017). Seattle is one of the most endowed cities in the USA regarding water resources. The city has a vast population, which translates to high amounts of waste release and subsequent large quantities of wastewater. The analysis of water systems in Seattle from the primary sources of water in the region and the drainage system to how individuals contribute to water waste and wastage indicates that water quality is important. A description of the system failure of the King County West point during the February 9 floods and the effects that the emergency bypass has had to the environment further describes how the environment is related to machinery. The paper analyzes the effects of system failures associated with water quality and, similarly, some mitigative measures, including treatment.

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Water Usage in Seattle

Seattle has two watersheds – the Cedar and Tolt Rivers that supply the region with drinking water. The Cedar River Supply provides drinking water to more than 1 million people. The watershed supports a diverse ecosystem. Initially, melting snow and rain are stored in the Chester Morse Lake and Masory pool reservoirs (“Water system overview,” n.d.). The tanks direct the water to Penstocks that drops water at more than 600 feet to a hydroelectric power plant at Cedar Falls. The water is channeled back to the river, where two large pipes eventually redirect it to the Cedar Water Treatment. At the same time, the Tolt River supply provides water for almost half a million people. Water is diverted from the South Fork Tolt River to a regulating basin that leads water to the Tolt Water Treatment. Seattle has four major receiving points that include Lake Washington, the Ship Canal and the Lake Union, the Duwamish River, and Puget Sound (“Water system overview,” n.d.). The drainage system of Seattle is a city-wide utility. Households and companies contribute to the drainage system, hence contributing to the problem of water runoff and benefit from the drainage since it controls floods and ultimately preserves the quality of water (MacEwen, Buys, & Taylor, 2017). Thus, King County Property is responsible for the drainage systems in Seattle.

Sustainable water usage includes using water wisely for the benefit of people and wildlife of the current and future generations. Most individuals are unaware of the amount of water they waste on a daily basis. Many people ignore the necessity to fix leaky pipes, which increases water use in homes and different institutions (Hanna-Attisha, LaChance, Sadler, & Champney Schnepp, 2016). Seattle contributes to the high records of water usage associated with the USA. Therefore, it is important for individuals to learn basic water conservation methods to prevent water wastage. Conserving water indoors include checking for leaks, washing full loads of laundry and dishes, and turning off the taps when performing such activities as brushing teeth, washing hair, and shaving. It is important to purchase water-efficient models when shopping for house equipment and fixtures. Saving water outdoors entails sustainable planting practices, for instance, the usage of weather-based controllers and automatic irrigation systems.

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King County West Point Treatment

The King County plant represents a wastewater treatment plant concerned with the quality of water and general well-being issues. The Plant provides high-quality water handling to wastewater, amassed from the Local Sewer Agencies in the Central Puget Sound region. Seattle falls under the Central Puget Sound Region; hence, it heavily relies on King County Regional Water treatment. The county’s framework comprises of three huge treatment firms – the West point, South, and Brightwater factories. The West one is located in Seattle, while the South and Brightwater ones are located in Renton and near Woodinville respectively. King County’s wastewater encompasses significant length of drain conduits, 25 controller locations, 47 pump posts, and other outfalls that ensure quality treatment of water. King County provides water treatment services to the local sewers in Seattle. Thus, the local sewers own and operate their individual collection systems. Their pipelines and pump stations collect and carry wastewater to the King County Regional treatment plant. The King County’s local system operates the regional treatment plants. It charges the local agencies on the rates, and in return, the local sewer agencies charge individual property owners.

The King County West point treatment facility was declared a state of emergency in bypass mode after a failure in their systems earlier in 2017. The equipment failure resulted in the plant dumping both storm water and wastewater into Puget Sound Region. The King County West point Treatment is located at Discovery Park in Seattle. According to reports, the plant went into a failure mode due to rain and tides that threatened to flood the entire facility (King County, 2017). The facility’s reports indicated that the plant received maximum wastewater from the local sewers agencies and the storm water, which led to uncontrollable water volumes in the plant (“’Emergency’ at Seattle Wastewater plant,” 2017). In efforts to prevent the floods that would have ultimately damaged their equipment, the plant went to an emergency bypass mode, and it could no longer accommodate wastewater from the local sewer agencies in Seattle. The plant discharged untreated wastewater into the environment. The treatment plant tried to contain the disaster by redirecting the water back into the plant and releasing disinfected water, while the initial release was untreated.

The plant took the necessary precautions to warn the public to avoid water contact for several days after the accident. Cases of failure of systems in treatment plants are common and they have adverse effects on the environment and individuals (Hanna-Attisha et al., 2016). Water treatment plants are expected to provide quality water with accordance to health requirements. Thus, the failure of systems in such plants results in effects on the environment, life of animals, and health of individuals.

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Problem

The main issue associated with the failure of King County West Treatment Plant is the discharge of wastewater to the environment. The wastewater, collected by individual local sewers agencies, comes from different personal properties that range from toilet to kitchen water refuse (King County, 2017). Managers at the treatment plant argued that releasing wastewater was a counter move to avoid fatal effects that would have occurred had nothing been done. According to officials, the heavy rainfall would have resulted in the flooding of the etnire plant, hence destroying expensive equipment and polluting the environment nonetheless (King County, 2017). They insisted that the release was the only option since the plant was not equipped to handle large amounts of water that were initiated by the February floods. The managers insisted that the plant had taken the necessary precautions weeks after the failure to ensure that water, discharged to the environment, was disinfected (Kcwtd, 2017). The wastewater, entering the plant, was screened to remove solid wastes and eventually sterilized to kill pathogens, such as bacteria, before being released to the environment. The plant initiated the restoration activities, allowing local agencies to send reduced amount of wastes that increased gradually after the flooding incident. That done was for the purpose of avoiding absolute lack of treatment.

Environmental Effects

While the plant recovered to normal activities on April 27, the consequences of the mechanical failure on the environment remain a concern. In the situations, where a reliable water facility is affected, the King County Wastewater Division (KWTD) analyzes the effects to the environment. After the incident, the KWTD was ready to increase environmental monitoring to mitigate the adverse effects. Thus, the KWTD worked with the Seattle Department of Ecology to ensure the preservation of life (Kcwtd, 2017b). The Puget Sound, where the untreated waste has been dumped, is home to orca whales and salmons. Coho, a species of salmon, is incapable of spawning to creeks, which leads to death. The environment was monitored on a daily basis, including beaches around West Seattle and Carkeek Park. The beaches were initially closed for almost a week to allow quality reassurance before allowing access to the public (Kcwtd, 2017b). Water quality data after the failure indicated higher bacteria count on the North Beach at West point where the emergency bypass outlets discharged. Little bacteria counts at Golden Garden Parks showed that the initial discharge did not flow as far as it was initially thought. Recent data show that the discharge from the plant meets the water quality standards. The water was sampled daily rather than biweekly during the plant’s restoration period. However, data indicates that the solid waste and garbage release from the facility is yet to meet the required standards. Lab results are significant in preserving human and animal life and mitigating the general effects of the overflow to the environment.

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The Seattle Times reported that the incident on February 9, 2017 was a disaster in the making for years (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017). Thus, interviews and reviews from more than 7,050 documents indicated poor judgment, communication and lack of necessary training and maintenance as the sole reason for the outflows of untreated water (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017). The incident occurred in 2000, 2006, and 2009, and people were of the opinion that the plant should have taken necessary actions to prevent the reoccurrence of the disaster (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017). Clogs, jams, and occasional spills were the preview of the February 9 disaster (MacEwen, Buys, & Taylor, 2017). Moreover, the switch that notified employees of the overflooding had malfunctioned, thus triggering the emergency bypass mode, which led to the disaster (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017).

The Flint Incident

A recent incident in Flint, Michigan indicated how the failure of efficient water treatment could affect the general environment and peoples’ lives. According to reports, Flint City had failed to treat water supplied to the whole municipal after changing the water supply source (Hanna-Attish et al., 2016). The city municipality’s failure to treat water resulted to elevated lead levels in the city’s drinking water (Hanna-Attish et al., 2016). Lead consumption increases the risk of development problems in children. These problems range from reduced intelligence to behavior and attention issues as well as neurological malfunctions. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had inaccurately described the water as safe for consumption. Data indicates that environmental racism and injustice have played a vital role in the Flint disaster (Campbell, Greenberg, Mankikar, & Ross, 2016). Most complaints from African Americans were not adequately addressed, thus resulting in lack of necessary actions for eradicating the lead poisoning.


The Flint incident occurred due to the failures in all levels of administration and the treatment plant. It is the ultimate responsibility of the environment quality agencies to ensure that water treatment plants work for the greater good of society. Initial water treatment plants should analyze the sources of water thoroughly, hence initiating the most appropriate systems in treating water (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017). Therefore, the Flint water poisoning indicates the failure of the environmental specialists to analyze and provide proper findings to the chemical officials (Willmsen & Mapes, 2017). The failure of the Flint government to react appropriately shows the failure of trusted administration. The Flint disaster was a failure of the environmental management in ensuring the provision of quality water. Therefore, the Flint incident indicates that quality water is the responsibility of the government, but individuals should be sensitive to the water they use to prevent poisoning.

Provision of quality water is essential to ensuring the health of people and other animals. In Flint, lack of proper water analysis resulted in lead poisoning to people for more than a year. In Seattle, the case of system crisis in the King County West point plant resulted in the dumping of many gallons of untreated water to the Puget Sound region. This dump of solid and chemical wastes adversely affected the lives of local fauna. While these cases have different bearings, the two indicate the effects of lack of quality water systems to the general environment.

Conclusion

Most water quality issues are related to the failure of systems and human resource activities. It is crucial for the water treatment plants to maintain their systems up to date and to avoid breakdowns and failures. While both parties, the Flint administration and King County, committed to performing the necessary actions to correct the effects of the environmental disasters and prevent their reoccurrences, there is a need to realize the consequences of these failures as long lasting. It is important to take precautions rather than mitigate effects to promote sustainable environment development. The US government has the responsibility to ensure that all treatment plants in the country meet the necessary environmental and public health requirements to provide quality water for the country’s population. Public education on the importance of preserving water is crucial to sustainable development.

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