Early Saturday morning a 30-inch diameter pipe failed inside the City of Bellingham wastewater treatment plant. The failure resulted in significant flooding of the underground galleries and a shut down of the secondary treatment process. Water levels were approximately 3-feet deep in the underground equipment galleries. All components of the primary treatment process are functioning. Basic levels of treatment and disinfection are being provided to protect human health and the environment.
The City has notified permitting agencies including the Washington State Departments of Ecology and Health as well as the Whatcom County Health Department and the Lummi Nation. The City is following protocols in operating permits for operational emergencies such as this.
Lab analysis of effluent water quality showed extremely low (less than 12 cfu/100ml) fecal coliform counts in the primary treated water being discharged to Bellingham Bay. At no point was human health at risk. The City does not anticipate any need for a closure of beach access or shellfish restrictions.
On site operators were able to rapidly close valves and shut down processes to minimize the flooding and damage. Crews were able to remove all flood waters and have re-started components related to solids incineration, odor control and dechlorination systems that were shut down when the flood was discovered. The primary treatment system is fully operational and will continue to operate and provide basic treatment. Crews will be working next on a temporary piping fix to restore operation of the secondary treatment system.
The public will not see any interruption in service during this situation.