March 12, 2001
Anita Brown, 13, cuts the ribbon.
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
ON THE TOLT WATERSHED - The gathering was meant to be a celebration of the dedication of the Tolt Treatment Facility, the first of its kind in the region. The mayor of Seattle was expected to attend. It was set for Thursday, March 1.
But after the earthquake hit on Wednesday, officials had to decide whether or not to even hold the event. After considering options, they hurriedly gave it the go-ahead since so many people from out of town had already planned to come.
Wednesday's earthquake, though, caused the focus of the dedication to change from the actual workings of the plant to preparedness, as officials noted repeatedly that the new facility was built to California earthquake standards.
"The earthquake and the ongoing drought prove that this facility is really needed," said Diana Gale, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) director. "And, because of extra seismic upgrades, there was no disruption to the area's water system as a result of the quake."
Calling the facility the "crown jewel of Seattle's water system," Gale said even the early scoping of the site was noteworthy, with the discovery of Native American artifacts.
"It took a year and a half to identify and record tribal history," she said. "This was a remarkable achievement and it didn't slow down the project."
Seattle Deputy Mayor Chuck Clark (there to replace Schell who was with FEMA officials in Seattle and Olympia) remarked that the earthquake showed the importance of the city's lifelines.
"The city is still receiving water and electricity," he said. "Hospitals are operating. That in itself is testament to how important this project is. We have never been able to reach the depths that we can now with this filtration system which will help us deal with drought conditions."
The $76 million Tolt Treatment Facility, in operation since January, delivers water to 1.3 million customers in Seattle and surrounding communities. The Tolt River provides about 30 percent of SPU's water supply, with the Cedar River providing the remaining 70 percent. Work is underway to begin construction of a similar treatment facility for Cedar River water.
The plant uses ozone to disinfect and filtration to improve water quality and increase supply and reliability. Because of filtration, levels can be drawn down much further in the reservoir, increasing available water by 11 million gallons a day.
Greg Lindstadt, one of the facility's designers, explained that the ozone does the initial disinfecting, but that its effects do not last, so after the water is filtered, low levels of chlorine are added for longer germ-killing effects. Fluoride to prevent tooth decay is also added at that time.
SPU used a design-build-operate (DBO) contracting approach that saved an estimated $70 million over the life of the project, according to SPU officials. Washington state-based Azurix CDM won the contract to design, build and operate the facility.
"The Tolt DBO is being watched closely nationally and internationally as a model for more efficient implementation of projects," said Gale. "We're getting a higher quality, more reliable water supply more efficiently and at significant cost savings."
Water from the Tolt River Treatment Facility now surpasses all federal and state safe drinking water standards, said Gale.