News Briefs: King County Faces $118,000 in Fines for Illicit Discharges

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, a computer programming error results in a 100,000-gallon overflow in Warren, Michigan

The state of Washington levied $118,500 in fines on King County for 27 instances of wastewater discharge exceedances, five instances of overflow violations and other permit-related issues in 2016-2017.

The county is working on upgrading its wastewater system. Most of the discharge violations were due to effluent containing too much chlorine, a problem caused by four treatment plants that are connected to old infrastructure in the city.


A computer programming error at the Warren (Michigan) Wastewater Treatment Plant may have caused a 100,000-gallon overflow of partially treated sewage after the plant experienced a power outage.

The mixed liquor hadn’t been fully treated before overflowing onto the grounds near the treatment facility. About 30,000 gallons made it into storm drains that discharge into a nearby creek.

The plant’s battery backup power source malfunctioned, according to the division head of the treatment plant. When power was restored, a computer closed the gates on a splitting box where sewage accumulated before going to the final clarifiers. It overflowed for about an hour.


The Rice University lab of engineer Qilin Li is building a water treatment system that can be tuned to selectively pull toxins from drinking water and wastewater from factories, sewage systems and oil and gas wells.

“Traditional methods to remove everything, such as reverse osmosis, are expensive and energy intensive,” says Li, the lead scientist and co-author of a study about the new technology published in Environmental Science & Technology. “If we figure out a way to just fish out these minor components, we can save a lot of energy.”

According to Rice, a set of novel composite electrodes that enable capacitive deionisation are central to the system. The charged, porous electrodes selectively pull target ions from fluids passing through it. When the pores get filled with toxins, the electrodes can be cleaned, restored to their original capacity and reused.

“This is part of a broad scope of research to figure out ways to selectively remove ionic contaminants,” says Li, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering.


North Carolina police say workers at a wastewater plant in Charlotte-Mecklenburg found an early-term fetus in a filter.

Authorities arrived to confirm it was a fetus before calling in the local medical examiner to collect it for examination. There was no initial indication of foul play.



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