[Editor Note: These are recent letters between our Tacoma Pierce County Health Department Director and a local Watershed manager. GMA = Growth Management Act, SSA= Sole Source Aquifer, UGA=Urban Growth Boundary]
Hello Dr Chen
Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, some of the information that has been supplied to you is incorrect as I will address below.
What is being done here is not legal as Lakewood Water has in fact no ownership of the aquifers nor of the water in those aquifers. Using the existing water companies in the UGA , most now proven and established to be owned and controlled by California Water, a master builders owned California company, is also a misrepresentation of their authority.
While a water company may be privately owned, as may the wells they use to draw water from the aquifers, no one may own the aquifers or the water in those aquifers. Those belong to the People and are part of the People’s natural resources. Similarly, WA DOH has no authority to permit tapping into a nearby aquifer under a lake that sits near the SSA for the sole purpose of allowing greater development density on top of the recharge area of the designated SSA.
That is the sole reason they are doing this. The plan is to fully develop the UGA on top of the Federally registered SSA recharge area, and to meet the challenge of supplying water, it was decided by the Master Builders Assn (MBA) and Lakewood Water to “just bring water in from a different aquifer” to use as recharge. I have found no reference to any science that would justify doing this. All of this has been established as true. This is not an attempt to besmirch the master builders, it is solely to first insist that actual water science be used by degreed water scientists, and second to see written confirmation that all Federal agencies, including the USDOH have stated that this action will not affect the health of the aquifers.
Unfortunately, this action was not prepared by using best available water science, and no degreed water scientist reviewed or approved this action. Ecology also does not have that authority, as I have now clarified with their legal department. US Code is the law of the land, as confirmed by the Supremacy Clause of Article 6 of the US Constitution, and even WA RCW may not overturn those US code laws. This action will of a fact affect Spanaway Lake, already highly polluted itself, as the lower aquifer under the lake will draw down, therefore drawing down the aquifer directly under the lake. I am very well studied in water science. No actual water science was used in this decision, nor were the laws that protect this SSA.
I did clarify this point with Ecology several months ago. Deference to local government does not apply to actions governed by Federal law, and even though the master builders of america (small caps intended) insinuate this deference in their GMA (it is established that the master builders in fact wrote the GMA), it remains outside the realm of their authority to insist that the laws not be applied and enforced. I am now in the process of filing a formal complaint to several agencies of the US Government over this issue with a request for funding review for refusing to abide by US Code law. That is mandatory to continue to collect Federal funding.
The people’s Pierce County Sole Source Aquifer, as written by TPCHD on behalf of the people, was approved by EPA and posted on the Federal Register by EPA on behalf of the applicant for the people, the TPCHD. However, local health departments simply do not have the authority to dismiss or ignore the Federal laws that protect this aquifer. It remains illegal to approve the paving over the recharge area to that sole source aquifer by just piping in water from a different aquifer, which is basically what the Health Dept and Ecology have now approved.
Despite my request for the proponents to provide the laws that were used to justify this action, no one has responded with those cited laws. Also, no one contacted any Federal agency to determine if this action is in fact legal nor to determine the impact to this aquifer. Given the reports and information from the Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Supply, 8/16/21, it is even more imperative that these actions be weighed carefully and according to the law. As you spoke about the countries who do in fact protect their aquifers, I am even more surprised that you would approve this action that will so negatively affect the recharge to the SSA. While the other aquifers are not included in the SSA agreement, the SSA in the unincorporated area of the county is.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would look a little deeper into the ramifications of this action, which is being done solely to accommodate highest possible density development across the entire recharge area of the people’s sole source aquifer.
I am not an anti-development person. If it is a safe and legal place to build, then build. But Pierce County has literally and truly already permanently lost over 60% of our natural water resources, now the rest is on the chopping block. I have been following and documenting this issue in this county for over 25 years. The irreversible losses are alarming and continue. Much of this is due to the fact that we have no enforcement of any of these laws, as verified by the former Prosecuting Attny, who I met with on numerous occasions, whose hands were tied as he could not prosecute county code violations and no steps were ever taken to correct that situation.
It is a very serious issue. I will be contacting Cheryl Lowe at WA DOH about this issue too. It is far too serious to ignore, as once this sole source aquifer fails, it will not recover – ever. To say the least. it is disappointing to learn that TPCHD is approving this action.
Thank you for your time
EPA certified Watershed Manager
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Dear Ms. Beckett,
Thank you for contacting me. I apologize for the delay in responding since I was traveling most of the month of October. I reached out to my team and shared your concerns with them.
Rainier View Water is a large water system regulated by Washington State Department of Health (DOH). They have multiple wells and water systems. We have no record of people getting sick from drinking their water.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department permits new wells and Group B water systems. Group B water systems serve fewer than 15 connections and fewer than 25 people per day. Withdrawal of more than 5,000 gallons per day requires a water right from Washington State Department of Ecology.
DOH requires all large water systems, including Rainier View Water, to submit monthly chlorine residual readings on their treated systems. Not all Rainier View Water’s wells or water systems are chlorinated. Rainier View Water sources their water from drilled wells, except for a tie in with Tacoma Water for emergency situations only.
Lakewood Water is also a large water system regulated by DOH. We are not aware of any projects with Lakewood Water.
The sole source aquifer designation in the federal register gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to review any federally funded projects in the aquifer. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department doesn’t have this same authority.
Should you have additional questions, you can contact Leigh McIntire, On-site Sewage and Drinking Water Resources program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH
Director of Health
Office of the Director