Flush with Success

Wednesday we celebrated the completion of the 11-year $300 million upgrade to Pierce County's wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This incredibly complex project has positioned Pierce County to meet both our technical standards and growth demands out to 2030 and beyond. Although few citizens even know where the wastewater treatment plant is, let alone what happens there, it still performs an incredibly vital function to protect our environment. As I reflected upon this milestone, some key lessons came to mind.

Vision & Planning – Both the siting of the WWTP and its more recent upgrade required a tremendous vision by leaders in Pierce County. They had to anticipate the needs of our citizens decades in the future.  Then, that vision had to be translated into a detailed funding plan and project design to deliver that vision. In this case, we had Toby Rickman, Karl Imlig, and a strong partner in Brown & Caldwell.

Execution – Getting from the drawing board to reality was exceptionally challenging, including 60,000 cubic yards of concrete, miles of piping, tens of miles of electrical wiring, control systems, and new UV systems.  Amanda Summers led the construction efforts for us, with Mortenson Construction doing the physical work.  Did I mention that all this upgrade work had to be done in and around our continuously operating treatment plant?  Did I forget to mention the project came in $11 million under budget?

Operations and Maintenance – Running this plant effectively 24/7/365 requires highly trained operators and skilled maintenance techs to keep this critical piece of infrastructure in top shape.  The recent flooding of the King County West Point plant and resultant discharge of over 150 million gallons of sewage into Puget Sound highlighted the critical role of both operators and maintenance.  Did I mention our lab techs who continually monitor the performance of the plant to ensure we are in compliance with our permits?

Video: Tour the new expansion of the Pierce County sewer plant

I must admit that I like to brag about our WWTP and the staff.  It reflects a County that is farsighted and willing to make significant investments in infrastructure to serve our citizens and protect our environment.  It is part of the story I tell people about why they would want to live, work, and raise a family in our County.

Thanks for reading!

Bruce Dammeier


P.S.  I got a great email this week from a local business owner who is very direct and occasionally quite blunt in pointing out challenges in the County.  However, he also wants to help out as well and recently served on an interview panel for us.  I had to smile when I read the email complimenting Carol Mitchell and Wolfgang Opitz, because it is high praise from a skeptic.  His email said, "Carol and Wolfgang are proof that unelected government bureaucrats can be exceptional!"  Way to go Carol and Wolf – I think you are exceptional too!

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