The King County Council last week approved dedicating $65 million to make important upgrades to the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Magnolia’s Discovery Park to prevent untreated waste and stormwater from being released into the Puget Sound.

A storm Jan. 13 created a series of voltage fluctuations at the treatment plant that caused the in-plant pumping station to shut down repeatedly between midnight and 2 a.m.

As a result, the emergency caused an estimated 11 million gallons of stormwater and sewage to overflow without treatment into Puget Sound. Approximately 80 percent was stormwater and 20 percent was sewage.

The upgrades include improvements to provide more reliable on-site power supply. West Point treats wastewater from homes and businesses in Seattle, Shoreline, north Lake Washington, north King County and parts of south Snohomish County.

According to a county news release, to run at its peak capacity of 440 million gallons a day during peak storms, the facility requires about 10 megawatts of electricity — the equivalent of powering about 11,000 homes.

According to the county report, the Wastewater Treatment Division will work with Seattle City Light on the power upgrades. Included in the funding is $3 million to analyze schedules and cost estimates if high-voltage power lines are needed at West Point.

Both agencies are also evaluating the feasibility of more targeted solutions such as a battery storage system, or other power conditioning devices.

“I’m very pleased that the council has approved this significant investment in the West Point Treatment Plant’s energy connections,” Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who sponsored the legislation, said in the press release. “Maintaining the power supply at the plant is integral to ensuring that equipment is operating well and that the emergency bypass system is not activated. This investment and the urgency shown by the Executive [Dow Constantine] in addressing this problem is a good thing for the health of our region’s waters and the people, plants, and animals that call King County and beyond home.”

Constantine also signed an emergency declaration that allows the Wastewater Treatment Division to quickly purchase services and equipment, which the council approved on March 9. This earlier council action provided for a two-year extension of that emergency declaration, to allow time for necessary work to be completed.

According to a county news release, in the past 20 years, the West Point Treatment Plant has diverted a “highly diluted mixture of stormwater and wastewater” into Puget Sound 15 times because Seattle City Light power disruptions caused equipment shutdowns when the plant was operating at or near capacity.

More than half of these bypasses — 53 percent — occurred over the past five years, according to the press release.

“West Point is a vital facility that protects the health of people and Puget Sound,” Constantine said in a press release issued March 9. “Even a momentary disruption in the electrical power supply can have catastrophic results. Difficult technical issues remain to be resolved with Seattle City Light, but I am taking urgent action today to help the plant better withstand power problems, and strengthen our ability to protect water quality for generations to come. I thank Seattle City Light for working with King County to ensure greater reliability and resiliency for this critical infrastructure.”