Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beach at Burfoot Park Closed, all other park facilities are open

Thurston County health officials have closed the beach at Burfoot Park as a precaution to protect beachgoers from contaminated water from a nearby wastewater treatment plant that serves the Seashore Villa mobile home community. 

Inspectors from the Washington State Department of Ecology discovered the problem on Friday while inspecting the wastewater treatment plant for the mobile home park on the shores of Budd Inlet located between Olympia’s Priest Point Park and the county’s Burfoot Park. Inspectors found that partially treated wastewater from the treatment plant was entering directly into Budd Inlet. 

County Health officials have closed the beach at Burfoot Park until the problems at the treatment plant are fixed and all of the wastewater can be properly treated. All other facilities and areas at Burfoot Park are open, including the trails, picnic areas and playground. 

Health officials also recommend that nearby beachfront property owners avoid contact with the water until the problems at the treatment plant are fixed.

The beach closure and posted warning signs will remain at Burfoot Park until the problem is resolved and this wastewater treatment facility is working properly.

For more information on protecting yourself, your family and your pets from common swimming and water-borne illnesses, visit the county health department’s web page at

For more information about wastewater treatment and how the Washington State Department of Ecology protects and monitors Washington’s waterways, visit  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prepare now, before the waters rise

For many Thurston County residents, flooding is an all too familiar event.  Dealing with the threat and aftermath of seasonal flooding is a trade off that many residents willingly make in exchange for living in beautiful, but flood prone parts of our county.

While we can’t easily control the hydraulic forces of floodwaters, we can make preparations to reduce the environmental impacts created by floods.  Proper storage of hazardous materials around homes, businesses, and agricultural operations can lessen the impacts.

When flood waters rise, and swiftly move through garages, outbuildings and barns, items that aren’t fixed in place become part of the flood’s flotsam and jetsam, creating a toxic soup of fuels, stains, pesticides, and other hazardous materials.

All county residents, regardless of the flood potential where you live, are encouraged to be proactive when storing hazardous materials and wastes.

- Don’t store hazardous materials and wastes outside – if flood waters don’t carry them away, rainwater will likely find a way into the containers, and overflow them.

- Choose a storage area that is secure, and unlikely to be impacted by floods.  Hazardous materials should be stored on sturdy shelving, and in containment tubs or trays for different types of items.
       -- For example, if you have both a wood deck and a concrete patio at your home, it is likely that you maintain them with the two different products to clean them. Many of these products are on chemically opposite ends of the pH scale. One could be a corrosive deck cleaner (an acid), while the concrete cleaner could contain caustic chemicals (a base). Both products can be harmful to people, pets and the environment if improperly used, and can chemically react if they are mixed/spilled together. Read product labels for proper use of protective equipment, and store different types of chemicals separate from each other.

- Store hazardous materials away from your (and your neighbor’s) well.   Floodwaters can carry spilled materials into a pump house and down the well casing or other conduit.

- Reduce the amount of hazardous materials you store.  Storing chemicals is easier when you only have one or two containers of household chemicals, as opposed to numerous totes of fuels, stains, and pesticides. Take unwanted, unused household hazardous materials to HazoHouse. Choosing least-toxic materials also reduces the threats posed by spills into floodwaters.

Take time now to prepare your garage and shop before a flood; you don’t want to be worrying about your gasoline and deck stain while trying to protect family, livestock, and your property.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wood Stoves: Tips for safe and efficient use

Wood stoves are common in Thurston County. They supply heat and keep us cozy through our long, dark, wet winters. When wood stoves are not used properly, they can be inefficient and dangerous. When they are used properly less smoke enters the home and neighborhood. Smoke from any source is harmful because it is made up of tiny particles that include chemicals and are easily breathed deeply into our lungs. This is especially harmful for small children, elderly adults, and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma.

For safe and efficient use of wood stoves:

  • Burn seasoned wood. Allow wood to season outdoors (under cover from rain) through the summer for at least 9 to 12 months before burning it. Properly seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain, and sounds hollow when two pieces are banged together.
  • Never burn wet wood. The moisture content should be below 20%. This can be tested with a wood moisture meter available at most hardware stores.
  • Start fires with black and white newspaper (no colored ink) or dry kindling. Never use gas, kerosene, lighter fluid, or charcoal starter.
  • Burn small, hot fires. Smoldering fires are not safe or efficient.
  • To maintain airflow, remove ashes regularly. When the stove is cool move ashes into a metal container with a lid and store outside (away from flammable material) until disposal. Wood ash can be a source of nutrients for composts, lawns, and gardens. However, they should used with caution
  • Keep the doors to your wood stove closed when you are not tending to it. Open doors allow sparks to escape and start a fire in your home. Toxic chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, can be released into your home through an open door as well.
  • Don’t let a fire smolder (burn slowly with no flame) over night, this creates a lot of smoke and dangerous creosote buildup.
  • Let the fire burn down to coals and then rake the coals toward the air inlet, creating a mound.  Do not spread the coals flat.

  • Reload by adding at least three pieces of wood each time, on and behind the mound of hot coals.  Avoid adding one log at a time.

  • Step outside and look at your chimney.  If you see smoke, the wood is not burning completely.  Smoke coming from the chimney contributes to air pollution.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher close by.

  • Keep flammable materials such as drapes, books, newspapers and furniture far away from your wood stove.

  • Be sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check that they are working by pressing the “test” button at least once a month. If there is no sound when the button is pushed, the batteries need to be changed.

  • Be aware of burn bans. You can sign up for email alerts through the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) to be notified when a burn ban is placed, what rules apply to it, and to be notified when a band is lifted.

Burning any items that are not seasoned wood or 100% compressed sawdust  manufactured logs (no wax) can result in the release of harmful chemicals and damage to your wood stove. Burning trash of any kind is illegal and may result in fines.

Never Burn:

  • Coated, painted, or pressure treated wood.

  • Manufactured fireplace logs made of wax and sawdust (these are meant for open hearth fireplaces, not wood stoves). 

  • Plywood, particle board, or anything with wood glue in it.
  • Wet, rotted, diseased or moldy wood.

  • Driftwood.
  • Garbage.
  • Household hazardous products.
  • Plastic.

  • Foam.

  • Any item with colored ink.

  • Boxes.

  • Wrappers.

Is your heating system inefficient? 

The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) offers rebates to help residents within Thurston County cities and urban growth areas upgrade their heating systems. Get the details here:

Visit ORCAA’s website to find out if your wood stove is certified. ORCAA offers a financial “bounty” on removed un-certified wood stoves for qualifying Thurston County residents.

Use your wood stove properly for the health and safety of you and your family, for less indoor and outdoor air pollution, and for more efficient heating. It benefits all of us!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Healthy Homes Program

Are you looking for help to reduce exposure to toxics, asthma triggers, mold, lead, or other housing-related health risks?  Trained Healthy Homes volunteers can help identify areas of concern and help you determine ways to create a healthier space.

Healthy Homes visits are no-cost, voluntary, and confidential. The visits take about 1.5 to 2 hours.

The Healthy Homes Program aims to reduce exposure to environmental health hazards by providing home no-cost visits for Thurston County residents. At the end of each visit, residents get customized recommendations and help choosing effective actions to make their home a healthier living environment. 

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer for the Healthy Homes Program? The next 30-hour volunteer training will take place in the fall of 2014. 

Call (360) 867-2674 or e-mail to schedule a visit or for more information.