We cannot live without good drinking water

By Marianne Lincoln

My many years of local travels to meeting after meeting have allowed me to be on email, Facebook and texting lists from some amazing local people with long time experience in keeping our communities safe and our leaders in check. Leaders like to be admired, but sometimes, it’s difficult to appreciate their choices and you have to stand up to them. The dealings and discussions that lead to the proposal for the Tiny Village in Spanaway were not privy to the public. The County has made that more and more the way they do business. The pandemic was a perfect opportunity for local government to have discussions that citizens could not find the links to join or simply were not computer savvy enough to know how to locate the discussions. The loss (and extreme expense) of our local newspaper added to the loss of citizen participation. (The News Tribune is now $765 for 6 months delivered!)

One of our greatest resources is water. The Chambers Clover Watershed Council [CCWC], has some very knowledgeable people with excellent long-term memory that have not ceased to express their disgust when the County and cities do things to hurt the water supply and all the creatures that need it. The mayors, councils, executives and staff that control these resources are not always pleased to hear the feedback and try to make these people go away. Truly, these folks have a lot to offer and only just a disgusted and frustrated presentation style left with which to share it after years of not being heeded.

To assist with the following letter, here is a link to a map of aquifers in Pierce County. And Pierce County’s page on groundwater.

Here is some recent information in a historic perspective from Don Russell, 92, of Lakewood”


When I was 9 years old in 1939 I lived with my family on a one acre American Lake front parcel of land.  We disposed of our domestic waste by discharging it into a large concrete block lined and covered cesspool pit located in the gravel soil adjacent to the our house.  Our domestic water source was a 80 foot deep hand dug well located 50 feet to the south of our cesspool disposal pit toward American Lake.  This was a common practice for all the early 1910 to 1940 settlers around American Lake.

In 1939 we were advised by Washington State Health Department that we and our neighbors where urinating and defecating in our drinking water source and that something should be done about this unhealthy practice.  The solution that eventually materialized some years later was creation of the Lakewood Water District whose wells tapped the clean water from the deeper C aquifer.  Subsequently LWD wells have been installed that tap groundwater from the E and G aquifers.

Fast forward.

Unfortunately, over the years and as a result of some discontinuity (holes) in the B aquitard that separate the shallow A1, A3 and C aquifers the nitrate (from the bacterial breakdown of the protein in human waste) concentration in these three aquifers has steadily increased from less than 0.25 mg/L to approximately 3.5 mg/L or more in the groundwater that now discharges into lakes and as base flow in our streams.  The biological response is green algae (particularly filamentous green algae) in lakes and filamentous brown algae (diatom) growth in our streams.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, the phosphorus (in the form of phosphate, i.e., PO4 — and monitored as soluble reactive phosphorus SRP) concentration in our A1, A3 and C aquifers has increased from less than 10 parts per billion (0.010 mg/L) to over, and in some places well over, 20 parts per billion (0.020 mg/L).  The biological response to this increase has been recurring harmful cyanobacteria blooms in our lakes.

Truly unfortunate, is the fact that USEPA Region 10, Ecology, WDFW, DNR, DOH and our County and City Public Works Departments and even State, County and City regulations do not provide adequate information that would enable proper definition of water quality related problems, let alone provide appropriate best management practices for mitigating the adverse environmental impacts of on-site septic system effluent nitrate and phosphate pollution of  the A1, A3 and C aquifers.

A recent example of ignorance on the part of the County Executive, et al, is the advocacy for locating a large village for the homeless people of Pierce County in the Upper Spanaway Creek/Spanaway Marsh wetland complex served by a large on-site septic system.  Spanaway Lake is already nutrient (N and P) from on-site septic system effluent as evidenced by its excessive aquatic plant and filamentous green algae growth and recurring harmful cyanobacteria blooms.  To locate a large Village in the headwater marsh of Spanaway Lake is stupid!

All the citizens of Pierce County and the City of Lakewood have a right to be pissed off by the lack of attention by their elected representatives and the apparent incompetence of those responsible for assuring the safe beneficial uses on our surface and ground freshwater resource.

My thoughts as we go into another New Year without an adequate understanding of how Mother Nature intended that our watershed to work, how we have screwed it up, and a commitment to responsibly steward WRIA 12’s limited and increasingly polluted freshwater resource.


Acronyms used:
LWD (Lakewood Water District)
WDFW Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
DNR Department of Natural Resources
DOH Department of Health
WRIA 12 Water Resource Inventory Area 12 (Chambers-Clover)

The Tiny Villages in Spanaway are being planned, to be located on a truly sensitive wetland, in a hidden corner of Spanaway near the border of JBLM, over a mile from Pacific Avenue. It is a forested wetland that feeds Coffee Creek and Spanaway Lake. There is a 9:30 a.m. hearing in the Planning Commission on the zoning change to allow it. Please get your comments in. Please, overwhelm them with comments! I am doing my best not to open my Thesaurus and add a long list of adjectives to this article about the inept, vile, presumptive and atrocious idea on putting all those septic tanks from people who are taking either illegal drugs or a plethora of mental and health medications into our water supply. The plan is not just average homeless citizens, it is planned for the long term difficult cases of mental and drug addicted persons. Yes, they want to round them up and
“Dump them in Spanaway.” Spanaway, are you listening?

Then, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Sprinker Recreation Center, the County is planning a presentation to the public, with all their pretty graphics about how much we need to help these people by letting them live and pee in our sensitive wetland. Yes, they need homes, but let’s bring some better locations to the table. How about near that former DSHS site on Pacific and 93rd, where they would actually be on a bus line and have city services?


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