Sewer tunnel project to protect Lake Union already over budget before it begins

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will need $30 million on top of the estimated $570 million price tag to complete an underground sewage tunnel. The tunnel will prevent sewage overflow into Lake Union and the ship canal. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Seattle is facing a water pollution crisis in Lake Union.

Now the Feds are requiring the city to clean up its act. To do that, it’s launching its largest public utilities project ever, and it’s already over budget.

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will need $30 million dollars more, bringing the price tag to an estimated $570 million to complete an underground sewage tunnel. The tunnel will prevent sewage overflow in Lake Union and the Ship Canal.

"The county and the city have seven overflow locations. On average, they overflow 130 times a year. This project will reduce those down to less than six per year," said Keith Ward, SPU Water Quality Project Manger.

In 2017, the West Point Water Treatment Plant had a massive mechanical failure that caused major damage the plant and dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound.

With the busy summer season approaching, some businesses on Lake Union say overflow isn't an issue, but they're still concerned about pollution of the water.

"We don't want people to have to worry about contaminants like this happening. As well as, we don't need to do that to our plants or aquifer. It's not a good thing and it can be avoided," said Rey Lopez, president of Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club.

SPU said their customers don't have to worry about a rate increase.

"We are able to offset that increase to rate payers by some new bond savings. When we issue bonds, we'll be able to save money," Ward said.

The project will help SPU meet state and federal guidelines and keep sewage overflow away from the waterways.

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