Tacoma City Council OKs $6M flood protection project

Tacoma’s Central Wastewater Treatment Plant could soon be better protected against the Puyallup River’s seasonal rising floodwaters.

Tacoma City Council Tuesday awarded a $6 million contract to Tacoma-based IMCO General Construction for a project that will wrap a 2,500-foot floodwall around the southern and northern portions of the plant, as well as construct five flood gates, a trench safety system, and a new pump station. According to City of Tacoma officials, the plant, which is located just west of the Puyallup River in a low-lying area at 2201 E. Portland Ave., receives and treats more than 130 million gallons of wastewater per day during large storm events before it flows into Commencement Bay. Eighty per cent of the wastewater comes from Tacoma, but the plant also treats the wastewater from about 19,500 customers in Fife, Fircrest, and unincorporated Pierce County.

Last year, the Flood Control Zone District Board of Pierce County awarded a $6 million grant to the City of Tacoma to pay for a majority of the project. The City of Tacoma has spent $1.2 million in design costs.

“The Central Wastewater Treatment Plant is at grave risk of significant flooding if the Puyallup River was ever to overtop its banks upstream of the existing facility,” City of Tacoma Public Works Department Assistant Division Manager Eric Johnson told councilmembers on Tuesday. “It’s estimated that we could see as much as five feet of water inundate the entire site, which would eventually take the treatment plant completely offline for a matter of weeks, and possibly even months. What would result is we would have basically 80 per cent of the wastewater that’s generated in Tacoma and south side customers that come to the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant would be discharged into Commencement Bay with no treatment. We could see things like potential beach closures, shellfish closures, that sort of thing. In addition to that, we would be potentially liable for daily fines of up to $35,000 a day from our regulators, the Department of Ecology. We would also probably see an increased number of untreated wastewater backups into businesses that are in the vicinity of the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant.”

Johnson also noted that if the City had not received the $6 million grant, wastewater utility rates would have increased approximately five percent in order to pay for the project.

The City put the project out for bid in February. Seven contractors submitted bids before the deadline expired on March 11. The resolution approved this week pays for the contractor’s $5,050,775 bid, plus applicable sales tax, plus a 20 per cent contingency, for a cumulative amount of $6,060,930, plus applicable sales tax.

The construction project is expected to begin this year.

Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello commended the City’s Environmental Services Department for securing the grant. “I’m glad we’re going to be able to, I think, get this in before this next winter’s flood season, and really protect this asset to make sure we can protect our economy and our environment,” said Councilmember Mello.

Tacoma's Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. (PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)

Tacoma’s Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. (PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index’s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant flood protection project, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengerssecond-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State; third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; and third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright. His work has appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.