FORT LEWIS, Wash. – An electrical problem at Fort Lewis’ Wastewater Treatment Plant resulted in the accidental release of up to 180,000 gallons of partially treated waste water into the Puget Sound between 11 p.m. Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday.
Fort Lewis officials emphasize that no completely untreated water was released during the event. All the water that was released had received at least primary treatment, meaning it had been stripped of solid wastes. In addition, about 45 minutes after the problem was detected, workers restored the secondary treatment process, which involves more sophisticated filtration. Chlorination, the last step in water treatment at the facility, was restored at about 2 a.m.
Officials estimate that the event released up to 60,000 gallons of water that received only primary treatment and up to 120,000 gallons of water that received full treatment but had not been chlorinated.
The problem occurred after one of the facility’s pumps short-circuited, damaging circuit breakers at the plant, which shut down the secondary treatment process.
An on-duty Wastewater Treatment Plant employee detected the problem as soon as it occurred and began to take corrective action immediately. In addition, after the treatment process was restored, Fort Lewis notified both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Health at about 3:30 a.m. Monday.
The Fort Lewis leadership wants to assure the Puget Sound community regarding its commitment to the preservation of the Pacific Northwest environment. Fort Lewis has long been a Defense Department leader in environmental programs. The installation will thoroughly investigate this event and review all procedures to ensure all steps are taken to
help prevent this kind of occurrence in the future.