Following is a letter to Chambers-Clover Creek Watershed Council (CCWC) members from Don Russell, longtime American Lake resident and volunteer lake water quality monitor for American and Waughop Lakes:
Currently there are thirty lakes in three counties (Pierce, King, Snohomish) that are being monitored for blue-green algal microcystin (a liver toxin) and anatoxin (a neurotoxin) concentrations under the CDC funded REHAB program. Two (one being Waughop) of the thirty lakes are being monitored for saxitoxin (a neurotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning) as well. Of the thirty lakes being monitored Waughop Lake stands out as being the most adversely cyanotoxin impacted lake of all those being monitored.
I have attached a map (below) of the location of septic systems located in the City of Lakewood. You will note that there are septic systems located on the highlands just southwest of Waughop Lake (just as there are located southeast of American Lake). The hydrogeology of the area southwest of Waughop Lake is such that septic system effluent discharged to groundwater flows into Waughop Lake. This influx of nutrient rich groundwater results in prolific aquatic plant growth along the southwest shoreline of Waughop Lake as evident on the attached Google map. It is also one of the sources (along with internal loading) of the phosphorus that results in Waughop Lake’s cyanobacteria impaired condition.
You will also note on the Google map (above) that Pierce College is located just northwest of Waughop Lake. It’s vast impervious parking lots all drain to the northwest quadrant of Waughop Lake. There you will notice the prolific growth of aquatic plants as the accumulated dry and eventually wet atmospheric deposition of nitrates and phosphates is conveyed by surface water runoff to that area of the lake.
These two factors, septic system effluent conveyed by groundwater and surface water runoff, plus internal phosphorus loading from sediments are the proximate cause of Waughop Lake’s cyanobacteria impaired condition. Governmental agency response to Waughop Lake’s impair condition is to post Warning Toxic Algae signs, which are routinely ignored by the public.
It has been 20 years now since the first of recurring toxic algae blooms in western Washington lakes was recorded in American Lake. At that time 11 pets were poisoned, five died. Since that time more pets deaths have occurred in American Lake and Lake Steilacoom and the health of lakefront property owners and lake recreational users is being impaired. It seems to me that a more robust governmental response to correct this condition is in order in regard to Waughop Lake (and other Pierce County cyanobacteria infested lakes).