Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Ways To Protect Drinking Water

Most people in Thurston County get their drinking water from the groundwater supply, either from a private well, or one of the many public wells throughout the county. Typical private residential wells are only about 50 feet deep, and most of our county’s public wells are 200 feet or less from the surface. Contamination can happen quickly and put people’s health in danger. To protect public health, areas surrounding the county’s many public wells that are vulnerable to contamination have been designated as wellhead protection areas. 

Whether or not you live in a designated wellhead protection area, your actions affect our drinking water supply. We all share the responsibility to help keep our community’s water supply safe and healthy to drink. Easy ways that you can do your part to help keep our water safe for your family and everyone else include:

  • Pick up dog waste – One pile of dog waste contains nearly eight billion fecal coliform bacteria! When people don’t pick up after their dogs, rain water can wash those bacteria down storm drains directly into streams, lakes, and Puget Sound. This rain water run-off is called stormwater. People who swim in or drink water that has been polluted with fecal coliform bacteria can suffer from cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches, with infants and young children at the greatest risk. In wellhead protection areas, rain run-off can wash dog waste bacteria into our drinking water. Stormwater usually either filters into groundwater or it flows into a nearby body of water rather than to a wastewater treatment facility. TIP: Bag, tie up, and dispose of your pet waste in the garbage, and never flush it down the toilet.

  • Avoid the use of toxic weed and bug killers and fertilizers on your lawn – Chemical pesticides and fertilizers, including popular “weed and feed” products, are toxic and can seep down through the soil beneath your lawn and into groundwater, which in much of Thurston County is the drinking water supply. Regular exposure to these toxics, such as through drinking contaminated water, can cause all sorts of medical problems, including cancer.

  • Take hazardous substances to HazoHouse for safe disposal – HazoHouse is a drive-through hazardous waste disposal facility located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center in Lacey and is open daily from 8:00am until the gates close at 4:45pm. If you have a product in your home labeled “Poison,” “Danger,” “Warning,” or “Caution,” it is considered hazardous and should never be flushed, poured down the drain, or thrown in the garbage. If you need to dispose of such products, please bring them to HazoHouse. TIP: For a list of the types of substances and products that are and aren’t accepted at the facility, visit the HazoHouse website by clicking here. If you have any further questions, you can contact HazoHouse by calling (360) 867-2912 or sending an e-mail to

  • Bring unused medication to a safe disposal center – For those with on-site septic systems, flushing unused medications can end up contaminating your drinking water supply – and possibly your neighbor’s too. Septic systems cannot remove medications from your wastewater, which means that they will be pushed out into your drainfield and seep into the groundwater. In particular, flushing unused or expired antibiotics can cause two serious problems for septic system owners. First, they will damage your septic system by destroying the helpful bacteria that break down wastes in the septic tank. Second, the antibiotics that make their way into our drinking water are thought to be contributing to the increasing levels of antibiotic-resistant germs. You can find more information on safe disposal at the County’s website. TIP: Safely dispose of unused or unwanted medications for free at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, the Tenino, Yelm, Lacey, or Tumwater Police Departments, or Rainier City Hall.

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