Submitted by Mayor Don Anderson and Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen, City of Lakewood.
Recent articles published in the Suburban Times regarding Waughop Lake have accused City staff and the City Council of “Nonfeasance and Misfeasance” based on the City Council decision to treat Waughop Lake with alum for persistent toxic algal blooms. The author of these articles states that City staff have withheld information from the City Council with the intention of driving the council decision. We disagree.
As has been written about in the Suburban Times previously (see Jan. 18, 2019 article in The Suburban Times from Public Works Engineering Director Paul A. Bucich, P.E.), the issue of algal blooms in the lake has been around for decades. The City has attempted to control the blooms based on recommendations from the concerned citizen who authored these articles in the past. Those attempts failed.
This time we are listening to the national experts. After extensive study, review by outside parties, and discussion, we have concluded that the reasonable and fiscally prudent course of action is to proceed with alum treatment in 2019 and likely again in 2020. The author of the articles continues to attempt to drive us to solutions that are risky, unlikely to be funded, unlikely to receive permits, and unwarranted in nature based on the impacts to the community from the algal blooms.
As a council we have to weigh many factors when addressing a complex issue like Waughop Lake. We rely on our professional staff, outside experts, state and national standards and permits, and evaluate all options in light of impacts to our community.
Two members of our community believe that we can dredge the lake for $2.7 million dollars. We disagree.
The evaluations done by two independent national consulting firms have much higher costs. The first evaluation done for the City identified the need for additional analysis before moving forward with any type of dredging. The City hired a second firm to look at it in greater detail and cost estimates associated with the more in-depth review (between $7.9 million and $34.5 million), along with the impacts to the park and surrounding neighborhoods, are just not acceptable.
These same citizens who want the lake dredged want you to believe that alum treatment is toxic to fish, humans, and the environment. We disagree.
Extensive evaluations by national organizations and experts refute that claim. Alum with a buffering agent is a known and accepted treatment method across the world for controlling high levels of phosphorus in lakes and drinking water reservoirs. We recognize that any treatment process is subject to failure without strict adherence to treatment protocols overseen by experts. This is why we will have national experts TetraTech oversee the contractor’s applications. TetraTech designed the treatment process and has over 40 years of experience nationwide with this treatment method.
Washington State Department of Ecology recognizes alum treatment as an accepted, safe, treatment method. City staff contacted Ecology to see if they had any concerns with alum treatment of Waughop Lake. They assured us that they did not see any issues with the process followed, nor with the treatment of the lake with alum. We expect to receive our state issued permit for application shortly.
We are aware that efforts to control natural processes have risks. Statements to the effect that the City Council has not been adequately informed of the risks are inaccurate, inflammatory and disrespectful to the extensive process the City Council has gone through to reach this decision. We are aware there are risks with any project; we find that in comparison to the risks of the alternatives, the selected alternative is the preferred one.
The two individuals who continue to write articles to The Suburban Times and send emails to City staff and City Councilmembers have interacted with Council and met numerous times with staff to make their case for alternative means to address the algal blooms. While we appreciate their passion for the lake, we ultimately disagree with their approach. The dredging of the lake is not the most environmentally sensitive approach and will expose the City to high risks, high costs, potential exposure to airborne algal toxins, disposal challenges, permitting challenges, and significant impacts to the park, users, and surrounding neighborhoods.
When compared with the alternatives of do nothing, dredging, application of aquatic herbicides and algaecides, or alum treatment, the choice for the City Council is clear: Alum treatment is the most viable solution.