Friday, April 24, 2015

Dive into Your Neighborhood

Whether you live in town, a cul-de-sac in a suburban neighborhood, or in a rural area outside of town, you are part of a watershed.  The water that runs off of your driveway, rooftop, and yard makes its way into the nearest lake, river or storm drain and, for most of us, eventually into Puget Sound.  This is one way that our daily activities can help or harm the health of Puget Sound.

The Clear Choices for Clean Water program is a partnership between Thurston County Public Health & Social Services and Thurston Conservation District that helps people make choices to improve water quality.  Choices for which all of us are responsible, such as proper pet waste disposal, slow release fertilizers, and regular septic system inspections, can help us clean up and restore Puget Sound.

What: “Dive into Your Neighborhood” Watershed Tour

When: May 16, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Where: Meets at Thurston County Public Health Department 412 Lilly Rd. NE Olympia, WA. The tour travels throughout Henderson and Nisqually Watershed.

Who: Residents of the Henderson and Nisqually Watersheds (There is a waitlist for non-residents who can join the tour if there is space.)

Cost: No cost! Register here or call Melissa Sanchez: (360) 754-3588 x105

Registration deadline is May 10, 2015.

The details...
Join us aboard a luxury tour bus for a fun and interactive experience in the Henderson and Nisqually Watersheds. The tour includes free local food, shellfish tasting, gardening & lawn care tips and more! Join your neighbors and learn about exciting things happening in YOUR neighborhood. 

The tour begins with refreshments and check-in at Thurston County Public Health Department, where we will uncover some of the mysteries of septic tanks. We’ll stop at several locations in Henderson and Nisqually watersheds to understand where our water comes from, where it goes and how our choices affect it. We’ll end at Nisqually Farm for local beverages, shellfish tasting, music and more!  Once we’re back at the Health Department, you can sign up for Clear Choices and take home free native plants, fertilizers, compost and other items to help protect water quality for all of us.

Priority signups are for people who live in the Henderson or Nisqually Shellfish Protection Districts.  Not sure if this means you?  View the map below.  People who sign up from outside of the two watersheds are placed on a waitlist.  We’ll let you know a few days before the tour if there is room for you and your guests. Spaces will fill up fast for this free family-friendly event. Register TODAY!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Farmers Market season, here we come!

In Thurston County, we are lucky to have multiple local Farmers Markets at our finger tips. Strolling through the aisles of booths full of colorful produce, beautiful crafts, and delightful locally made products can feel so magical. And now that it is spring, we get to enjoy the markets for the entire growing season ahead!

Many of our staff members here at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services are so excited about this, so we thought we’d share some safety tips for visiting Farmers Markets.
  • Wash hands often. There are many opportunities for touching unique items for sale as well as sampling goodies and eating lunch. Be sure to take a quick break from the market to wash your hands throughout your visit, especially before you eat.
  • Wash produce. Produce, whether it is organic or not, should be washed before you eat it.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for tripping hazards.
  • Keep your kids close. When a market is crowded, it’s easy to lose sight of a little person. Talk to your kids about what to do if they get lost.
  • Some vendors are required to have permits and others are not. For more information about permits see our Farmers Market Permitting and Reference Guide.
  • Have fun supporting local vendors, enjoying local foods, and getting fresh air!

To help you get out and enjoy our local farmers markets, here is a list:

The Olympia Farmers Market at 700 N. Capitol Way Olympia, WA – Now open Thursday-Sunday

West Olympia Farmers’ Market at 1919 Harrison Ave. NW Olympia, WA – Open Tuesday evenings starting in mid-May

Yelm Farmers Market at Nisqually Springs Farm 17835 Hwy 507 Yelm, WA – Open Sundays starting May 31

Tenino Farmers Market at 301 Old Hwy 99 Tenino, WA – Opens Saturdays starting June 6

Tumwater Farmers Market at Capitol Boulevard and Israel Road Tumwater, WA – Open Wednesdays (11am to 2pm) starting in May

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Healthy Homes Workshop on Saturday April 11

We spend a lot of time in our homes and there are many actions we can take to make them healthier. Join us to learn simple ways to create a healthier living space including ways to reduce exposures to toxins, asthma triggers, mold, lead, and other housing-related health risks. This workshop is presented by Thurston County’s Healthy Homes Program, which offers free, voluntary, and confidential home visits to help Thurston County residents create healthier living spaces.

What: Healthy Homes Workshop
When: Saturday April 11, 2015 from 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Where: LOTT WET Science Center, 500 Adams Street NE, Olympia, WA 98501
Who: Adults and children ages 12 and up
Why: To learn ways to improve your home environment

We hope to see you there!

Friday, April 3, 2015

All drains lead somewhere...

When something goes down a drain, it may seem like it disappears, but it doesn’t. All drains lead somewhere.  There is no such thing as going “away.” Yes, you may flush your waste, you may watch as the unwanted material swirls down the drain but really, all of that material ends up somewhere.  The where depends on the locations of the drain. 

Do you have an on-site septic system in your back yard?  The water from that system filters through the soil in the drainfield and helps replenish the groundwater system.  Remember where your drinking water comes from?  For most people in our county, it’s groundwater.

If your house’s drain is connected to LOTT Clean Water Alliance, the public sewer utility in Thurston County, then the waste ends up at LOTT for treatment. There, the sewage is treated, the water is reclaimed and it goes into Puget Sound or into the reclaimed water system.

Most storm drains go directly into a body of water without treatment and only a few direct water to a treatment facility.

It is up to all of us to help protect our drinking water, our beautiful lakes, rivers, streams and Puget Sound. Be careful about what goes down the drain and what runs off of your yard, driveway, and rooftop. These five tips can help!

1. Reduce or eliminate your use of toxic products – choose safe cleaners, art supplies, detergents and more.

2. Be aware of what goes into the toilet.  Human waste and toilet paper are the only things that should be flushed, ever. This means NO wipes, feminine products, condoms, medications, undigested food, cotton swabs, etc.

3. Choose safe garden products – invest in organic fertilizers, weed tools, bird baths, mulch, and less hazardous garden products. What goes on the ground can end up in the ground or in the nearby surface water that our kids and pets love to splash in.

4. Dispose of used motor oil at one of the 33 locations that accept it for FREE.

5. Dry out latex paint and throw it in your trash. Unwanted oil based paints, solvents, and other unwanted household hazardous materials go to HazoHouse for free, safe disposal.

Remember that there is no such thing as going down a drain and “away.” It all goes somewhere and that somewhere could be anyone’s back yard. We are all connected and we are all responsible for protecting this beautiful place that we are lucky to call home.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5 Tips for Painting Projects

Springtime has a way of motivating many of us to tackle those home improvement projects. Like the fresh new flowers of spring, a fresh coat of paint can liven us up. If you have a painting project on your plate, here are some tips that can help you.

1. Choose low VOC paint, ideally less than 50 grams per liter (gpl). VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. VOCs give paint its consistency and evaporate as it dries. Short-term health effects of VOC exposure can include eye irritation, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Long-term exposure can lead to damage of the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys. Pregnant women, children, and people with respiratory problems have higher health risks. Ask your local paint vendor for low VOC paint options before you make your purchasing decision. Be aware that adding color to paint can add VOCs.

2. Buy the right amount of paint for the job. To estimate how much paint you need by calculating one gallon of paint for every 400 square feet. Purchasing the right amount of paint will reduce the amount of paint you have leftover to store or dispose of.

3. Ventilate properly. Ventilating the area well helps lower exposure to VOCs. Keep windows open and use an exhaust fan to draw fumes from the home. Regular air conditioners do not filter indoor air. Read the paint label carefully and follow the recommended safety precautions, such as wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator. Dust masks do not protect against VOCs. If you are using oil-based paint, the health risks are greater and there is an added risk of fire. Take extra care to keep oil-based paints and materials stained with oil-based paints away from sources of flames or sparks.

4. Store leftover paint safely. Hopefully you don’t have a lot of paint leftover to store. Store it in the original container and check to see if you can still read the label. If paint has dripped down the sides, make a new label that includes the contents and the date. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and then tightly secure the lid over it. Be sure to keep all paint and paint products completely out of reach of children.

5. Dispose of paint properly. Latex paints are not considered hazardous. They can be solidified and put in the regular trash with the lid off. To solidify latex paint, mix in shredded paper, kitty litter, dried grass clippings, or a commercially available paint drying gel. When the paint is an oatmeal-like consistency and will not spill out, it can be placed in the regular trash with the lid off. When the lid is off, a garbage collector can see that there is no longer liquid paint in the container and process the garbage as needed. When liquids are placed in the trash, they can cause damage throughout the garbage collection process.

Oil-based paints are hazardous materials. Take oil-based paints to HazoHouse for free and safe disposal. You can also donate leftover paint to local theatre groups, schools, or other groups in need. You can also list unwanted items at

Have fun with your spring projects!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Compost – Gardener’s Gold

Heading out to your garden this weekend?  Whether you grow flowers, vegetables, shrubs, or even a lawn, compost is the key to great soil.  And great soil is the key to healthy, resilient plants!  Compost is the dark, crumbly result of decomposed plants & animals.   It helps build soil texture, holds moisture, and supports the millions of soil critters that are important to soil fertility. 

You can make your own compost in a pile, in a compost bin, or even a worm bin.  The WSU Extension Master Composters offer classes to help you learn how, or check out this great guide: Composting Yard and Food Waste at Home by Seattle Public Utilities. There are guidelines on different methods of composting, trouble-shooting guides, and compost recipes.  It even includes some really cool drawings of compost food web critters, where worms are the big guys! 

You can also buy compost - a good option if you want to start planting your garden now, and don’t have a compost pile ready to harvest, yet.  We are lucky to have several locations to buy bulk compost or soil blends that include compost.  Bagged compost is also widely available.  We recommend looking for organic compost or compost that has been certified by the Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) testing program of the US Composting Council.  A compost provider should be able to provide their latest test results. A User’s Guide to Compost has additional tips on choosing compost and helpful charts to figure out how much compost you need for the task you want to accomplish.  In other words, if you have a 5x10 garden bed and want to dig in 2 inches of compost, how much compost do you need?  And for you ambitious types – how much do you need for an acre or two?   

Improve soil fertility to grow happier plants and use less water by adding compost to your garden, yard, or lawn this spring. Happy gardening!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

HazoHouse is now open daily

HazoHouse is now open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The hazardous waste collection site, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center in Lacey, collects unused and unwanted household and business-generated hazardous waste. This service is free to Thurston County residents, and businesses pay a small fee to safely dispose of hazardous chemicals, cleaners, and other waste that can harm the environment if not handled properly. 

"I'm really pleased to see this expansion of the HazoHouse service to seven days a week," said Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, who also chairs the county's Board of Health. "Daily collection not only helps protect the health of our environment, it also helps protect the health of our waste collection workers. This is just one more step Thurston County is taking to keep our drinking water and our environment safe and clean." 

Chemical products like household cleaners, bug and weed killers, auto care products, fluorescent bulbs, and oil-based paints and stains can be harmful to human health, wildlife, and our environment when not handled and disposed of properly. The goal of offering HazoHouse services seven days a week is to make it even more convenient for county residents and businesses to dispose of their household hazardous waste the right way, and avoid pollution from illegal dumping. 

"We've seen an increase in the number of residential customers at HazoHouse each year since 2012," said Scott Schimelfenig, Manager of Thurston County Solid Waste, "It's great to see that more people are bringing their household hazardous waste to HazoHouse and disposing of it the right way. We're happy to offer expanded hours to meet the growing need for safe and convenient disposal of hazardous waste." 

HazoHouse is located at Thurston County's Waste and Recovery Center at 2420 Hogum Bay Road NE in Lacey. To get to HazoHouse, use the entrance to the right of the main entrance. When you bring your items to HazoHouse, please stay in your car and wait for attendants to assist you. HazoHouse is an easy and free option for county residents to safely dispose of hazardous household products. 

Go to for a complete list of items accepted at HazoHouse.