Tom Gibbs, a University of Washington engineering graduate, joined Metro as its third employee in June 1959 and saw the transformation of our waterways through his own eyes. Tom went on to become Metro Executive Director and instilled values in the agency that still hold true today.
Tom recently welcomed us to his home for an exclusive interview. We asked about his early accounts of the waterways, his experience in the first Duwamish River cleanup efforts and the spirit of the agency during that time. Tom describes the innovations that took place in one of the nation’s most ambitious and successful regional water pollution cleanups.
Hear Tom’s story in this series of five short videos.
In the 1950s, wastewater flowed largely untreated into Lake Washington and Puget Sound and many rivers and smaller lakes, fouling water and making a sullied mess of local beaches.
In 1958 the voters created Metro and developed a regional wastewater treatment system based on watersheds as opposed to political boundaries.
Shortly after Metro was formed, construction began on the county's two existing regional treatment plants, West Point in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood and South Treatment Plant in Renton, which were officially up and running by 1966. By the late 1960s, regional water quality began improving dramatically.
In 1994, King County assumed authority of Metro and its legal obligation to treat wastewater for 34 local jurisdictions and local sewer agencies that contract with King County.