Submitted by Don Russell, Lakewood.
Nonfeasance defined – failure to act where action is required by law, willfully or in neglect.
In a five year (2009-2013) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored study Waughop Lake was found to experience the most toxic harmful Cyanobacteria blooms of 30 lakes monitored in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. In 2011 the lake was posted “Closed” to all recreational use by the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department after its finding that the microcystin toxin level in the lake exceeded public health guidelines of 6 ug/l. The microcystin level in the lake at that time was 25,200 ug/L!
In a City of Lakewood sponsored $200,000 Brown & Caldwell study its finding was that the cause of recurring harmful Cyanobacteria blooms in Waughop Lake was the existence of a layer of phosphorus polluted sediment laid down by 65 years of Western State Hospital farming operation’s practice of discharging slaughtered animal waste, manure and human sewage followed by 40 years of Pierce College’s inadvertent discharge of human sewage into Waughop Lake.
Brown & Caldwell recommended that the layer of nutrient polluted sediment laid down in State owned Waughop Lake by the discharges of two State owned institutions be removed at an estimated cost of $2.7 million. The study also indicated that a $210,000 alum treatment could be considered as a short term (3 to 5 years) option for restoring the safe beneficial recreational use of the lake should State funding for sediment removal be unavailable.
The City staff responded to the Brown & Caldwell study by advocating to the City Council that the City could use local ratepayer funding to implement the $210,000 alum treatment option since the sediment removal option would be in, their judgement, prohibitively expensive. Ignored in this advice to City Council was the fact that it was the discharge of pollutants by State owned institutions into a State owned lake that is the proximate cause of Waughop Lake’s excessive aquatic plant growth and nuisance filamentous green algae and harmful Cyanobacteria blooms. The City of Lakewood and its ratepaying citizens have no culpability for, or responsibility to fund the cleanup of, a toxic waste site. This is clearly the responsibility of the State of Washington under provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act.
For over a year now and contrary to the requirements of provisions of the Clean Water Act (40 C.F.R. Part 25) and State regulations (WAC 173-303-900) regarding public involvement and participation and State, County and City ordinances that require that sites that pose public health risks be cleaned up have been ignored by City Council and City staff
What the City has done instead of complying with Federal and State requirements is to hire an alum treatment biased consultant to conduct a study to determine the amount of alum and sodium aluminate to be discharged into Waughop Lake to inactivate the phosphorus in both its water column and bottom sediments, supervise its application, and engage with City staff in a concerted effort to discredit all who oppose the discharge of hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic aluminum, sodium and sufate ions into State owned and State institution polluted Waughop Lake, all at City of Lakewood ratepayers’ expense.
The City Council should withdraw its support for a local ratepayer funded lake-wide alum treatment. Instead the City staff should be required to engage with citizens, academics and reputable dredging contractors and figure out how to remove the nutrient rich sediment layer laid down by the illicit discharges of two State owned institutions for B&C’s estimated $2.7 million cost estimate. Lakewood City Council should demand that the State fund its willingness (since it has no obligation) to cleanup State owned and State institutions’ pollution of Waughop Lake once State funding is assured. Our State representatives should request a $2.7 million line item budget to fund the sediment removal option. Sediment removal is the option prescribed by three independent studies done on Waughop Lake.
In the meantime should the City Council desire that the public enjoy safe beneficial recreational use of Waughop Lake funded by Lakewood rate payers then it should engage either AquaTechnex or Northwest Aquatic Eco-Systems to monitor each season’s water quality condition and prescribe and apply minimal quantities of Ecology approved chemicals to prevent the lake’s excessive aquatic plant growth and nuisance filamentous green algae and harmful Cyanobacteria blooms. This untreated annual excessive plant growth and nuisance and harmful bloom condition of Waughop Lake currently denies Fort Steilacoom Park attendees safe beneficial recreational use of Waughop Lake’s polluted waters. The estimated cost of such service – from $50,000 to $75,000 per year, is a mere fraction of the cost of a lake-wide alum treatment, with far less adverse environmental effect and cost impact on any subsequent sediment removal operation.