Wednesday, August 26, 2015

FREE Septic $ense Workshops in September

Your home septic system is a major investment that comes with the responsibility for its care and maintenance. Sign up for one of our four free workshops held throughout Thurston County in September. Learn how to prolong the life of your septic system and protect not only your financial investment, but your family’s health and the environment as well. 

These workshops can benefit all septic system owners, from first-timers to those with years of experience. Attendees will be provided with information on:
  • The different types of septic systems – gravity flow, pressure distribution, mound, and sand filter
  • The three main components of a septic system – tank, drainfield, and soil
  • When to have your septic tank inspected and pumped
  • Warning signs indicating septic system damage or failure
  • How your home water use affects the lifespan of your septic system
  • What to avoid putting down the drain
  • The availability of loans and grants for septic system repairs and replacement

In addition to a better understanding on how to care for and maintain your on-site septic system, all workshop attendees will receive a $10 discount on septic tank pumping. 

Please sign up here or call (360) 867-2673 to reserve a seat at any of the following workshops:

Wednesday, September 16, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Rochester Community Center, 10140 Highway 12, Rochester

Thursday, September 17, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Pellegrinos Event Center, 5757 Littlerock Road SW, Tumwater

Wednesday, September 23, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
South Bay Fire Station, 3506 Shincke Road NE, Olympia

Thursday, September 24, 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Thurston County Fairgrounds Expo Center, 3054 Carpenter Road SE, Lacey

To register, please call 360-867-2673 or click here to sign up online at the Thurston County Environmental Health website. Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible. If you are unable to attend any of these workshops but have questions regarding the care and maintenance of your septic system, please call the Septic Help Line at 360-867-2669.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Become a volunteer for the Healthy Homes Program!

What: Thurston County’s Healthy Homes Program trains volunteers to provide free home visits to Thurston County residents to encourage behavior and actions to promote healthy living spaces – such as dealing with and preventing mold, creating healthy indoor air, reducing asthma triggers, reducing exposure to toxins, and more. We have a free volunteer training coming up this fall! You can learn all about housing-related health risks and how to prevent and reduce them. This training includes expert guest speakers, field trips, and opportunities to put what you learn into practice. It’s fun and the knowledge gained is useful in our daily lives.

Who: This training is for people interested (or who work) in housing, improving health, safety, and giving back to the community. No prior experience is necessary; the training teaches all you need to know to conduct Healthy Homes Visits in pairs. These visits are free, voluntary, and completely confidential. We don’t do any sort of enforcement or mediation. We are invited to do the visit by the resident, where we perform a checklist and walk-through. Based on what we find we provide information, guidance, and resource lists to the residents to help them take the next steps. We are flexible with volunteer hours for people who will use the knowledge and skills from the training in their regular work.

Why: Housing conditions can cause health problems or make existing health problems much worse. This is especially the case for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. There are many simple, low or no cost ways for people to reduce the risks of housing-related health issues and our goal is to educate and empower residents to create habits that promote the healthiest possible living space. Program staff are available to work with and help volunteers to feel comfortable and confident in providing Healthy Homes Visits.

When: The training starts September 15 and runs every Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. through November 17, 2015. This is a total of 30 hours of fun, hands-on training and afterwards we ask volunteers to provide 30 hours of volunteer service (which is about 10 home visits) as their schedules allow. Volunteers can also put in time by participating in booths at community events, performing outreach, or working on special projects. We are flexible with volunteer hours for people who will use the knowledge and skills from the training in their regular work.

Where: The training is held at the Thurston County Public Health at 412 Lilly Rd. NE, Olympia, 98506; across from St. Peter’s Hospital. Intercity Transit bus routes # 60, 62A, and 62B serve the area. To sign up or find out more, contact coordinator, Elisa Kaufmann at  or 360-867-2674 (TDD 360-867-2603.) If transportation is an issue for anyone who is interested, please don’t let that stop you from applying. We are close to bus routes and there is a good chance that volunteers attending the training can carpool.

Apply today!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Recycle Light Bulbs for FREE

Disposing of your used-up light bulbs doesn’t have to be difficult. Some light bulbs, such as compact fluorescents (CFLs), require special care in use and disposal because they contain mercury. Thankfully, it’s free to recycle them safely. The tricky part is keeping them safe while storing and transporting them to a convenient location, but don’t worry, we’re here to help with that.

Transport safely
Ideally, store the used bulbs back in their original box and take them safely to the recycling location of your choice. Another way is to wrap them in paper and carefully place them into a cardboard 6-pack container. If travelling with loose bulbs, wrap carefully in paper or plastic and place into a box to keep from rolling around.  Don’t tape them together.

What if one breaks?
Avoid breathing vapors or touching broken materials.
Do not vacuum or sweep. Open windows to vent vapors for at least 15 minutes while keeping people and pets out of the area. After this, you can clean up the mess by following these simple steps.
  1. Use stiff paper or cardboard to pick up large pieces.
  2. Use duct tape to pick up small pieces and powder.
  3. Wipe the area clean with a disposable damp paper towel or wet wipe.
  4. Place all materials in a sealed container.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  6. Dispose of cleaned up, broken blubs at HazoHouse — not in your trash.

Where to recycle
Many bulbs nowadays contain some mercury including compact fluorescent tubes (CFLs), high-intensity-discharge (HID) lamps, neon lamps and mercury vapor lamps. This is why there are special requirements for cleaning up and why they can’t go into your regular trash. They can be recycled at HazoHouse, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center on Hogum Bay Rd. in Lacey.  HazoHouse accepts most unwanted household hazardous materials for free and is open everyday from 8 – 4:45.

Thanks to Light Recycle Washington, there are many other locations that accept unwanted fluorescent bulbs and tubes for free – many of these locations limit their acceptance to 10 bulbs per day.

Fluorescent bulbs
  • Batteries Plus Bulbs on Capital Mall Dr. in Olympia
  • Home Depot (all locations) – Tumwater off Littlerock Rd., Olympia on Fones Rd., Lacey on Marvin Rd.
  • Lincoln Creek Lumber/Ace Hardware at 2421 93rd Ave., SW, Tumwater
  • Lowe’s (all locations) – Lacey off Yelm Highway, Olympia on Martin Way
  • Olympia Ace Hardware at 400 Cooper Point Rd. SW
  • Puget Sound Energy at 2711 Pacific Ave. SE in Olympia

  • There is no way to recycle incandescent bulbs, simply place in the trash. 

LED (light emitting diode) lights

  • They are not considered hazardous, last many years and can be safely disposed of in the trash.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Common Sense Gardening: Create a healthy brown lawn this summer

A brown lawn is not exactly what we imagine for a relaxing summer oasis but with this hot, dry summer, it may be all that we can achieve!  Common sense gardeners generally consider letting lawns go dormant (turn brown and dry out) in the summer but never has that seemed more important than this summer.  With temperatures well over our average and little rainfall for months, a dormant lawn is likely this summer, whether we prefer the brown look, or not.

Worry not!  When rains return, the lawn will turn green again – until then, embrace the dormant lawn with careful watering and limited use.

Summer Care
  • Avoid mowing if possible – weeds will not stop growing so mow if needed for weed control but hand pulling weeds, especially as they go to seed is better for the lawn.  Chemical weed killers can seriously harm dormant or stressed lawns.
  • Limit foot and vehicle traffic on the lawn.
  • No need to fertilize or add lime to a dormant lawn – wait until fall to add a slow release fertilizer.
  • Water one inch of water per month to keep the lawn alive – use a rain gauge to check and record any rain on your calendar so that you are providing one inch, in total, for each drought month.

Fall Care
  • It may take 2 weeks for lawns to turn green again after the rains begin this fall. 
  • Add slow-release fertilizer after lawn has started to green up again.
  • Aerate and overseed with a drought tolerant grass seed blend grown in the Pacific Northwest for a healthy lawn that can survive whatever winter and next summer may provide!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Safe Swimming

This hot weather is great for enjoying lovely lakes and pools in Thurston County. Swimming is fun, great exercise, and is a refreshing way to cool off.  There are some hazards to be aware of when swimming.

According to, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4.  Actively supervise kids in and around water with undivided attention.  Teach kids that they always need an adult with them when swimming. Older, more experienced swimmers should always swim with a buddy and be aware of swimming skill levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the main factors that influence drowning are lack of swimming ability, lack of close supervision, failure to wear life jackets, and alcohol use. For more information on preventing drowning, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Home & Recreational Safety website.

Blue-green algae
Blue-green algae can produce a toxin that can cause stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea and some people may have allergic reactions to it. Thurston County Environmental Health posts advisories online when local lakes have toxic blue-green algae. To lower your risk of exposure when blue-green algae is present, avoid contact with lake water, avoid drinking untreated surface water, keep pets and livestock out of the water, avoid boating in areas of scum, and if you choose to fish in a lake with a toxic algae bloom - catch and release is recommended. Thurston County Environmental Health has a Lake Watch volunteer program. Sign up here.

Swimmer’s Itch
Swimmer’s Itch is a skin rash that comes from parasite commonly found in aquatic animals. The tiny larvae search for a host. Humans are not natural hosts, but the larvae can remain on our skin as we leave the water. As the water evaporates or runs off, the remaining larvae burrow into the skin. Since humans are not suitable hosts, the larvae die. When this happens, the skin becomes irritated. Symptoms include tingling, burning, and itching of the skin with small reddish pimples appearing within 12 hours which may become small blisters.

The itching can last about a week, but the rash can take up to 30 days to recover. Scratching the rash can lead to a bacterial infection. To relieve some of the symptoms of Swimmer’s Itch you may use a corticosteroid cream, calamine lotion, a cool compress, bathe in Epsom salts, baking soda, or oatmeal baths, or apply a baking soda and water paste to the rash. Consult your doctor for additional information on treatment.

To prevent Swimmer’s Itch avoid swimming in areas where there is evidence of ducks and geese, do not swim or wade in marshy areas, and shower, towel off, or wipe the water off the body with the palms of your hands immediately after swimming.

Leeches are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem. They feed on worms, snails, and insect larvae and some feed on fish, reptiles, and mammals. They are food for fish, ducks, and turtles. Leeches prefer shallow, protected areas of lakes with aquatic weeds and submerged branches. Leeches can attach to humans.

If you find a leech on your skin – do not pull it off! This could leave the mouthparts of the leech still stuck in your skin and cause an infection. Instead, use salt or heat to make the leech let go of your skin. Then clean and bandage the leech bite to prevent infection. It is common for a leech bite to ooze for several hours after the leech is removed and there may be itching or an allergic reaction. Leeches in our region are not known to transmit disease to humans.

So far this summer, we have seen a lot of heat! Be safe when you're out enjoying the water and take all necessary precautions to prevent accidents and illnesses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tips for storing, cleaning, and preparing fresh produce

Fresh produce is a treasured gift of the summer season. You may have heard of people getting sick from eating contaminated produce. It can happen when bacteria get on the produce from the soil or water while it was growing, during the time it was harvested and transported, from shopper’s hands at the store, and from your own hands when you prepare it.

Here are a few tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in produce.
  • Store it properly. Store perishable fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator at 41° F or below.
  • Keep them separated from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for produce and raw meats. Keep in mind that cutting boards, dishes, and utensils need to be washed with soap and hot water after being in contact with raw meats.
  • Wash produce under running water before eating. Whether the produce is conventionally grown, organic, or home grown it is important to wash it well and pat it dry with a clean cloth towel or a paper towel. Rubbing or scrubbing produce under running water is the recommended method for washing produce – no need for soaps or detergents.
  • Prepare produce safely. Always begin with clean hands – wash them for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparing food. Cut up washed produce on a clean surface with a clean knife. Use clean dishes and utensils for serving.
Cheers to enjoying delicious northwest fresh fruits and veggies this growing season!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Toxic Algae Advisory Posted for Lawrence Lake

This advisory is no longer in place.

A blue-green algae bloom in Lawrence Lake near Yelm has recently produced enough toxin to prompt an advisory for the lake that is now in effect. Swimming in water with algae toxins or drinking it can lead to serious illness, so people and pets are advised to stay out of the water at Lawrence Lake, and anglers are reminded that the safest bet during a toxic algae bloom is to catch and release.

Water samples taken from Lawrence Lake in the last week found the algae toxin Anatoxin-a at 191 micrograms per liter of water—well above the state standard of 1 microgram per liter for recreational water use. Signs will be posted at boat launches and public access points around the lake until tests show the algae toxin levels have dropped below the state standard.

“We’re issuing the algae advisory for Lawrence Lake because toxin levels are quite high. We want people to have this information so they can make informed decisions,” said Art Starry, Director of the county’s Environmental Health Division. “Our advice is for people and pets to stay out of the water until the algae bloom goes away, and that catch-and-release is the best bet for avoiding any algae toxins that can build up in a fish’s system.”

While not all algae blooms are toxic, some algae can produce toxins that can harm the nervous system, the liver, the skin, and the stomach and intestines. Experts from the county’s Environmental Health Division recommend a few simple tips to help prevent illness from algae:
  • Avoid swimming, wading, wind surfing and water-skiing in waters where algae blooms are present.
  • Don’t drink untreated surface water.
  • Keep pets and livestock out of waters with algae blooms.
  • When fishing, catch-and-release is the safest practice. If you do eat your catch, clean any fish you catch thoroughly. Before eating, remove the internal organs, which may contain harmful algae toxins.
  • Avoid areas of scum when boating and clean your boat thoroughly.

WHAT:    Algae Advisory for Lawrence Lake—No swimming, no pets, no fishing advised
WHEN:    Effective Immediately
WHERE: Lawrence Lake is located about 10 miles south of Yelm. Public boat launch is located at the end of Pleasant Beach Drive SE.

For updates check our Swimming in Thurston County website.