About 100 people gathered Wednesday morning to hear and watch Gov. Jay Inslee christen the Port of Olympia’s new stormwater treatment plant, an $11.5 million project that was constructed over the summer and recently became operational.
Those invited to take part, including state Sen. Karen Fraser, Olympia City Manager Steve Hall and state Department of Ecology water quality manager Heather Bartlett, first gathered indoors to hear the governor speak, then headed outdoors to watch him participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
But prior to that, the governor spoke briefly about Puget Sound and the port.
“I’m here on behalf of my three grandchildren because they’re going to have a shot at a clean Puget Sound because of the leadership of the people associated with the port,” he told the audience.
Although Budd Inlet looks gorgeous and pristine, it’s sick, he said.
“We have this beautiful body of water, and underneath it we have a sick ecosystem where we have a very serious decline in the variety of species that are part of the heritage of Washington state,” Gov. Inslee said.
He also called the stormwater treatment plant a “remarkable achievement for a relatively small port.”
“Thank you for helping to protect South Sound,” added water quality manager Bartlett.
Funded by bonds, the port embarked on construction last spring to meet recent changes to state Department of Ecology stormwater permit requirements.
The port also was asked to do more about its stormwater after the Olympians for Public Accountability, a citizen watchdog group, sued the port. The port agreed to an out-of-court settlement in 2011.
Before construction of the new system, the port used a mechanical sweeper and vacuum and cleaned its log yard, catch basins and filters weekly.
But testing of chemical oxygen demand, which competes for oxygen with aquatic organisms in an already oxygen-depleted Budd Inlet, showed it was well above the acceptable limit of 120 milligrams per liter.
The port studied other treatment systems that did not lower COD levels to a benchmark 120 milligrams per liter, or lower, and chose a chemical oxidation treatment system that adds oxygen to the stormwater.
Port environmental programs director Alex Smith said Wednesday the port is waiting to hear back on a test sample that was taken on Thanksgiving to make sure the system is meeting its benchmarks.
The plant is expected to treat 65 million gallons of stormwater annually, she said.
MARINE TERMINAL DIRECTOR
Marine terminal director Jim Knight is the new executive director at the Port of Astoria, Ore., which means the port is looking to fill that position by Jan. 1, said Jeri Sevier, human resource and administrative manager for the port.
The number of applicants has been narrowed to five, and interviews begin next week, she said.
Knight left the port in October.
Former port marine terminal director Jim Amador has filled in during the interim, he said.