Saturday, June 29, 2013

Here Comes The Sun, and Olympia's New West Central Park

Above: Alicia Elliott greeted folks all day, and answered questions about her vision for the new park as musician Mike Burdorff looks on. 
by Janine Unsoeld

New Yorkers may scoff at the ambitious sounding name for a new grassroots-driven park on Olympia's Westside, but many people today certainly felt like it could be that other Central Park, minus the mature trees. 

Although hundreds of cars passed by the busy intersection of Harrison and Division, they were hardly noticed as people hung out for hours, visiting artisans, seeing old friends, making new friends and meeting neighbors. More than one person was heard to say that the just over half acre piece of land feels much bigger when you're standing in the middle of it.

Alicia Elliott, the visionary woman who recently bought the previously vacant lot for $450,000, is moving fast. With a team of dedicated volunteers, the space that almost became a 7-11 mini mart was today transformed into a bustling community scene of musicians, artisans, food vendors, picnic tables, flower planters, and yes, two conveniently placed portable toilets equipped with sinks at the far end of the lot.

And it's just the beginning. Park project volunteers anticipate and encourage future local events, including craft fairs, music, art and dance shows at the location, and just offering a place to visit with friends and meet neighbors.

On June 12, the Park received its non-profit status from the State of Washington, making fundraising easier. The goal is to raise $152,500 for grading, utilities, buildings, landscaping, a water feature, benches, fencing and more. This low estimate is based on the fact that 50% of the supplies and labor are being donated by several area businesses and artisans.
Elliott and volunteers have also established a Friends of West Central Park membership plan. It is open to all, however, satisfying one or two board membership requirements, such as living within 10 blocks of the park, or attending three work parties, for example, enables members to achieve a position on the board of trustees or the board of overseers. Membership will meet once a year and are essentially the shareholders of the Park.
The Park also received some good news in the financial department just three days ago: When Elliott first bought the property, she was required to either pay a fee to start a water account or prove the existence of a previous account at the property. She paid the fee. Although there hasn’t been a building on the site for 16 years, there had been an account there at one time, so the City of Olympia agreed to refund her deposit of $3,200. The money will go toward the Park's fundraising goals.

Above: Woodworking artisan Brian Anderson planes a piece of spalted maple today in West Central Park.
Today, Brian Anderson of Anderson Woodworks demonstrated his craft, as he planed a piece of spalted maple. "Spalted basically means when a tree is starting to rot," he said. Anderson said he gets his maple from a source in Rochester. "I try to get wood locally, although I do get some exotic wood. Most of my products, like my cabinets, are Forest Stewardship Council certified products. Self-taught since 1996, he said his learning curve was quick. "I learned from my mistakes...I try not to make things out of alder, for example, because it's so unstable."
Above: Kelly Rigg demonstrates the art of blacksmithing.
Kelly Rigg said he did blacksmithing as a hobby for about 14 years, but started his business, Big Hammer Technology, about four years ago when the economy tanked. He makes small crafts, such as coat hooks as well as large, commissioned works. He recently completed and installed a forged gate to the Lincoln Elementary school garden. Asked by an observer if it was hard for him to pound the steel, he said, "It doesn't take muscle so much as technique. Every hammer blow has a purpose," and produced a little seahorse.
Above: Tucker Petertil and Sue Hastings demonstrate the art of mosiacs.

Above: With a lot of vision and hard work, West Central Park takes shape.
For more information, go to A history of the Park development is in the Winter 2013 edition of the South Sound Green Pages at

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

South Sound GLBT Activists Celebrate Supreme Court Rulings

Above: Local GLBT activist Anna Schlect, dressed as a Supreme Court justice, celebrated today's United States Supreme Court rulings at the Urban Onion in downtown Olympia tonight.
By Janine Unsoeld

South Sound gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community members and their allies gathered tonight at the Urban Onion in downtown Olympia to celebrate the United States Supreme Court’s historic day of decision on two marriage equality cases.
The court's striking down of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denies benefits to same sex couples, now means federal benefits, over 1,000 statutes and regulations involving tax, survivors and veterans benefits, bankruptcy, housing, visitation rights at hospitals and more, will be extended to all married couples, including gays and lesbians. 
The court also sent Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriages after it had been legalized by the California Supreme Court, back to California. It was rejected by the Supreme Court today on a technicality, with the court saying it lacked jurisdiction in the case. Activists expect same sex marriages to resume in California in about a month. Both decisions are seen as a victory for the GLBT community and their supporters, making it just a matter of time that marriage equality may be extended to all 50 states.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently have marriage equality legislation in place. Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation legalizing same sex marriages in Washington on February 13, 2013.
South Sound Activists Celebrate....And Remember
Moderated by local GLBT activist Anna Schlect, who was humorously dressed as a black robed Supreme Court justice with numerous strands of colorful Pride beads, tonight's celebration welcomed GLBT activists and allies to speak, including several members of the local faith community. It was standing room only as some recalled past campaigns and those who are not here today to witness the victory.

Schlect said she received an early morning telephone call from the Governor's office asking her to bring a Rainbow flag to hoist at the Capitol Building. She did so, although the flag has yet to be flown, given the urgent budget battle, the outcome of which is still to be determined.

"For those of you who haven't lived through a historic occasion, this day is for the books! This is a sea-change, a watershed moment that will make a difference in the United States...but there's lots more work to do...and more conversations with friends and neighbors about this....There has been, and will be, more backlashes by fearful, ignorant people, so we all have to keep the fight going!" said Schlect.

The Reverend Amy Walters of First Christian Church said, "Faith communities know that each person is created in the image of God - the death of DOMA is a tremendous step toward justice and equality....but the fight is not over...." The Reverend Carol McKinley of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Church and Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh also spoke.
Gib and Beth Rossing are parents of two gay sons and two straight daughters. Active with PFLAG, a support group for parents and families with GLBT children, they said they are very excited about the decisions, and said that one of their sons, who lives in Indiana, a state that does not yet allow same sex marriages, was married to his partner this past weekend at Priest Point Park.

Above: Flirticia Fondue performs at the Red Ribbon Gayla event at the Olympia Ballroom on Saturday night.
Hearing this morning's Supreme Court news, drag queen Flirticia Fondue, 50, of Olympia, who was not dressed in drag tonight, said, "For me, I was elated, but I also felt a loneliness for all the heroes who could not be here tonight. We know Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard, but there are many other nameless heroes who are not with us today....We have them to thank for where we are today." After asking the crowd for a moment of silence to remember those heroes, Fondue added, quietly, "I'm glad I got to experience this while I'm still alive."
In an interview later, Fondue said that he was one of five young gay children adopted by a gay man. "I'm the only one of the five who is left...the others died of AIDS. Now I'm an only child...."
Above: Partners Lisa Brodoff, left, and Lynn Grotsky spoke tonight at the Urban Onion. Brodoff and Grotsky were litigants in the first "out" second-parent adoption case in Washington State in the 1980's. Brodoff said, "This is a day to show our children that the arc of justice does bend toward justice...."
Asked before the party what this day means to her and her partner Lisa Brodoff, Lacey resident Lynn Grotsky gushed with emotion, “We were already excited for our wedding at our Temple on July 28, but the joy to know that we are granted the same 1,000 or so rights that heterosexual couples have….that we are truly full-fledged equal citizens of the United States of America and that we, nor our children, will ever again have to feel as "other" simply because of love, is astounding! I have been floating above the ground all day! And our wedding will truly be a full acceptance of our 32 year relationship, both under the eyes of God and the laws of our country. And now we'll work towards equal rights for all the other states in our nation and the world.”
For more articles about marriage equality in Washington State, GLBTQ issues, Capital City Pride, and other related issues, go to and type in key words, using the search button.
Above: The Urban Onion on Legion Way is a great place to have a party....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Capital City Pride Day 2013 - People Working Together

Above: Daniel Bumbarger, 25, and Noel Coley, 20, staff the Mpowerment Olympia booth at Capital City Pride in downtown Olympia today. 

by Janine Unsoeld

The official theme of Capital City Pride 2013 was "Advancing Our Pride - Moving Forward Together." As it turns out, it really was about people working together to make it happen, from beginning to end. The 23 year old celebration in Olympia lost a couple key volunteers this year, but gained dozens more after organizers put out a community-wide request for help.

Sunny weather with rainbows galore graced the parade, youth talent show, drag queen entertainment and dozens of supportive GLBTQ non-profit organization booths in Sylvester Park today.

Above: Romeo Jay Jacinto of Olympia, right, was the winner of Pride Idol 2013, singing Macklemore's "Same Love" with Christina Brewer. Later, he said it was his first time on a big stage, and that he sang the song for GLBTQ allies.
Above: Drag queen "Miss Mirage A Trois" of Olympia sings Demi Lavato's "Heart Attack"
At the Mpowerment Olympia group table, Daniel Bumbarger, 25, handed out safe sex kits and materials. He is upset about the cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention funding in Thurston County. Mpowerment Olympia volunteers organize and participate in many positive social activities and hand out about 1,000 safe sex kits per month at community events, colleges, clubs, bars, and clinics.

"No funding outside of the funding bubbles (of King, Pierce and Snohomish County) is ridiculous...I mean, I understand why they are doing it, but people to people connections are far more useful than any advertising campaign, particularly with youth. We've been so oversaturated with that - it doesn't affect us anymore."

Bumbarger has been involved with Mpowerment Olympia since November of 2011 and appreciates the group. "I think I get as much out of it as I put into it. It's the social stuff, yeah, but it also gives us the skills to do our own programs, and trains us to be leaders in our own lives...I came here from central Pennsylvania. This is my first group of friends - people aren't afraid of being themselves here."

Noel Coley, 20, agreed. Coley has been involved with Mpowerment Olympia for a year.

"I like helping educate men. I feel like a leader. I honestly don't know how it's all going to go - it's going to be pretty crazy until we find some (funding) stabilization. I feel a real sense of community with Mpowerment, a sense of belonging, and I'm helping the community too." 

Both young men were present later in the evening, volunteering at the Red Ribbon Prevention Gayla held at the Urban Onion Ballroom. The event was held to raise funds for HIV prevention services in Thurston County. A silent auction, a raffle, and a dessert dash all raised a significant amount of money. Organizers were thrilled.

"The support has been breathtaking...All of you have changed the future of prevention. After July 1st, there will be HIV testing!" said Justin Taylor, Mpowerment Olympia coordinator and HIV/AIDS prevention coordinator for the Pierce County AIDS Foundation. Taylor received a leadership award at the event for his four years of dedication to the Mpowerment Olympia group.

"He built this program from the ground up," said Matthew Shrader, chair of the Mpowerment Advisory Committee.

Above: Matthew Schrader, left, and Justin Taylor at tonight's Red Ribbon Gayla.

Above: In honor of the late Tumwater City Councilmember Ed Stanley, Capital City Pride Parade Marshal Roger Cummings, left, presents Matthew Shrader, Chair of the Mpowerment Advisory Committee, a check for $1000 to the Pierce County AIDS Foundation to go toward local HIV/AIDS prevention activities. 
Community donations will be needed on an ongoing basis to continue free HIV/AIDS testing and other HIV/AIDS prevention activities. For more information, go to or Mpowerment Olympia is located at 317 4th Avenue East, 4th floor, Olympia, (360) 352-2375. No-cost, rapid and confidential HIV testing is on Fridays 12:00 p.m. - 5 p.m. and by appointment.
To help with next year's Capital City Pride, go to

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thurston County HIV/AIDS Prevention Funding Cut

By Janine Unsoeld

The Washington State Department of Health has confirmed that it will no longer fund some HIV prevention activities in Thurston County after June 30th. 
The state's approach to HIV prevention has been redefined and funding for it has been cut due to a recent state decision to focus scarce financial resources to areas in the state with a high number of cases, with first priority going to King County and Pierce County.
"Since March 2011, the state Department of Health has been working in partnership with the Washington State HIV Prevention Planning Group, a group of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, to construct a framework for HIV prevention for the state. The strategies all aim to...significantly reduce new HIV infections in the state," says Maria Courogen, Office Director of Infectious Disease at the Washington State Department of Health.

 To meet this goal, there have been three main changes to prevention services: an increased focus on people living with HIV, an increased focus on populations and geographic areas with the most new HIV infections, and an increased alignment with a changing public health system.

 In 2012, the Washington State HIV Prevention Planning group established an ambitious goal to reduce - by 50% - the annual HIV incidence among gay and bisexual men living in Seattle by 2017.

Justin Taylor, HIV/AIDS prevention coordinator for the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, runs the Mpowerment Olympia program, which provides local HIV/AIDS testing in Thurston County.
The Mpowerment program received a portion of a $60,000 contract for prevention. The other parts of that funding went to pay for condom supplies for distribution, educational workshops, and HIV testing/counseling.

“This news, combined with the bleak overall funding landscape for behavioral interventions in Washington State, means that we can no longer continue to sustain the Mpowerment Olympia program…. It is our hope that the devoted and energetic community members that helped craft the success of the program will continue it as a volunteer run community group, if that is what the group wants,” says Taylor.
Mpowerment Olympia is an early intervention program focusing on young gay and bisexual men between the ages of 18 -29 years old. The group started in 2001 and is approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as an empirically tested model proven to reduce risk among that demographic.

The group creates positive social connections for young men while promoting safer sex. Volunteers with the program hold drop-in social time at their community space in downtown Olympia, coordinate dances and events, and hand out about 1,000 safe sex kits per month at area bars, community events, college campuses, clubs, and clinics.
Courogen agrees that Mpowerment Olympia is a worthwhile program.
"The program provides great opportunities for youth leadership development and community building and we are supportive of their efforts to find funding to sustain their presence in the area. The Department of Health will be working to make sure that people with HIV in every county, including Thurston County, are diagnosed, linked to care, and have access to medication...." she said in an email today.

Taylor says he hopes to continue offering HIV/AIDS testing one day a week in Olympia. The free service is only offered to people deemed high risk: men who have sex with men and their partners, sex workers and their partners, injection users and their partners, those who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and anyone who has had sexual contact with someone who is HIV positive. Taylor says the test is a quick process, using an oral swab, and no blood is drawn. Results are available in 20 minutes.

He also hopes to offer the group, if it continues, some support including continued free use of the meeting space, access to Mpowerment manuals, resource library materials, and some pre-purchased supplies.

“We work magic with the small amount of funds we would receive each year....This funding cut doesn’t just affect Thurston County. People come to Olympia from Grays Harbor, Mason County and Lewis counties. If we can’t continue, with community funding, those people will either not get tested, or have to drive all the way to Tacoma for services," says Taylor.

"The irony is the fact that we've proven in Thurston County that prevention does indeed have a direct impact on new infections....but it’s easier for the State to track the success of a biomedical approach and harder to track the work of education, information, and awareness. I fear we’re going in the wrong direction – giving up on prevention strategies is wrong. Three out of every four new infections are still gay/bi men in Washington State and many young folks don't realize HIV is still an issue,” says Taylor.

But Taylor isn't just waiting or relying on state government to educate young men about safe sex.

A 2009 graduate from The Evergreen State College, Taylor uses his media production and business leadership degree and skills toward his HIV/AIDS education work here in Olympia. He says it’s about understanding people, and being in a small town that affects people’s decision to get tested.

With his friend Sonny Nguyen, he created a spoken word film called, “How to Use a Condom,” which ended up winning the University of California Los Angeles’ Impact 2012 grand prize award. Nguyen lives in Olympia and is a volunteer with Mpowerment Olympia. The two filmed it on a whim in the space currently used by Mpowerment and were encouraged by friends to send the film into the contest.

The grand prize earned Taylor and Nguyen $5,000, which they donated to the Pierce County AIDS Foundation to support the Mpowerment program in Olympia. The film can be seen on The Hook Up, Mpowerment Olympia’s YouTube show, at

Taylor has also produced a 15 minute dark comedy called, “Tying the Knot,” about a closeted politician trying to find redemption through his secret, kinky relationship with a male prostitute. It recently showed at the Olympia Film Society. He also volunteers with Capital City Pride, which is Saturday, June 22 in downtown Olympia.

And with Taylor's help, a fundraiser for Mpowerment, the Red Ribbon Prevention Gayla, will be held on Saturday, June 22, 6:00 p.m., at the Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way NW, Olympia. There will be a dinner, silent auction, dessert dash, 50/50 raffle, live performances and presentations from local LGBTQ community leaders. Contact or go to for ticket information.

For more information or to learn how to support the activities of Mpowerment, go to: or Mpowerment Olympia is located at 317 4th Avenue East, 4th Floor, Olympia, (360) 352-2375. No-cost, rapid and confidential HIV testing is on Fridays 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. and by appointment.

Free, rapid HIV/AIDS testing is also available through the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department at 522 Franklin St SE, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Their entrance is on the Legion Way side of the building.

For more information about Capital City Pride, go to


According to the Washington State Department of Health, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks the immune system, causing deficiency or damage in the immune system. HIV damages the body's ability to fight diseases and infections.

HIV infection leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Without a healthy, functioning immune system, a person may become vulnerable to infections by bacteria, other viruses and disease-causing organisms. These infections may cause life threatening illnesses.

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 47,500 people were newly infected with HIV in 2010.

In Washington, the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in 1982. Recently, the number of new HIV cases in Washington has remained steady, about 550 new cases per year, on average. More than 18,000 people in Washington have been diagnosed with HIV disease. Over 5,000 people have died as a result of the disease. Treatment for HIV disease is both effective and widely available. Most people with HIV survive long after diagnosis.

By the end of 2011, more than 11,000 people were reported to be living with HIV across Washington State. Between 2007 and 2011, statewide HIV incidence estimates ranged from 390 to 541.
Data indicates that four out of five recent HIV infections are among males; three out of four are gay or bisexual men; roughly half reside in King County, and more than one third are gay/bisexual men who reside in the city of Seattle.

For more information, contact the Washington State Department of Health, Infectious Disease Assessment Unit, (360) 236-3455, or go to:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's The Groundwater: LOTT Advisory Group Still Has A Lot of Questions

Above: All the water that will ever be is right now.
It’s the Groundwater: LOTT Advisory Group Still Has A Lot of Questions
By Janine Unsoeld

Reclaimed, recycled, infiltrated.  What do these words mean to you?
In the context of water, those three little words are synonymous. Pose the question to three different people using each one of those words, and chances are you may get three different answers, or, perhaps, puzzled looks altogether. 

After several months and five meetings, the 16 member community advisory group to the LOTT Clean Water Alliance's Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study has wrapped up Phase I of its work.

The group, and the LOTT Alliance, the water utility organization comprised of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County, will be helping the community understand what these words mean in the months to come. 

Reclaimed water is a form of wastewater management - it's wastewater that has been treated and can be used for a different purpose, such as irrigation. It's a somewhat new concept in the Pacific Northwest, although it has been used for years for a variety of purposes, even for drinking, in California, the Southwest, and other locations in the country. 

The South Sound community is already producing and using reclaimed water. The LOTT Alliance produces Class A reclaimed water using a sand filter technology - up to 1.5 million gallons per day - at its plant in downtown Olympia, and uses it for irrigation. Up to another two million gallons per day is produced at the LOTT plant in Lacey on Martin Way. The reclaimed water produced there uses a membrane bioreactor technology and is currently pumped to the Hawks Prairie reclaimed water ponds and recharge basins where it is infiltrated to replenish groundwater.  Reclaimed water is also being used to enhance wetlands and restore stream flows.

Although the Class A reclaimed water that LOTT produces is continually monitored and tested, there are lingering and emerging questions about our area's unique geography, soil structures, and what is currently in our water system, such as compounds of emerging concern, i.e. pharmaceuticals and personal care products. These are all topics being explored by the LOTT Alliance and the groundwater study advisory group when it comes to the continued and future use of this reclaimed water.

The subject of reclaimed water, and its use for potentially recharging our groundwater aquifers is emotional and fraught with conflicting concerns. It's about community values and its unknown risk on human and environmental health. It's also about money - the cost of processing and treating it to the highest level using the best technology to date, issues around land use and growth, and competing priorities for the use of a precious and scarce natural resource - water.

The Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study

The groundwater advisory group community members applied for their positions and were selected by the LOTT Alliance board of directors late last year. Most group members have demonstrated a steep learning curve. Some have a background or some experience in water issues, public service, and related administrative nuances, such as serving on a board of some kind. Most, if not all, members have exhibited a healthy curiosity and some have asked questions that indicate an ongoing dose of skepticism in LOTT, the process, and the advisory group’s actual role. Some are quite satisfied with the direction of the study, and the information provided thus far. Others, not so much.

Members have received a great deal of information, mostly from LOTT’s perspective, on the latest science regarding basic water/wastewater principals, definitions and explanations of technical jargon, and information regarding the unique challenges facing the South Sound community and its varied water systems.  Public comment has been allowed at each meeting, and members have discussed and reviewed their concerns during meetings. Each meeting has lasted three hours.

The group and LOTT staff has been aided by two consulting firms, Katz & Associates, and HDR Engineering, Inc., to facilitate meetings and help develop materials, presentations, lectures, surveys and public involvement plans.
It is incumbent upon group members to do a lot of their own homework if they want to distill the information provided to them and rise up to ask questions that may counter what it is they are being told.

And they have had a lot of questions: Why is this study being conducted? Why are we here? What are compounds of emerging concern (CECs) and are they currently in our groundwater and/or drinking water? What happens to recharged/recycled/infiltrated water? Where does it go? Is it safe to use this reclaimed water for groundwater recharge? What are the standards now in state and federal law for monitoring CECs? What are the soil types in Thurston County? What do groundwater studies in California have to do with us?
The advisory committee members have experienced what amounts to a college-level crash course in local water reuse issues. It has included science and case-study lectures, Power Point presentations, tours of the LOTT facilities, the creation of public opinion research surveys in the form of interviews with over 50 selected community members and a telephone survey of 400 randomly chosen Thurston County residents, and more. 

So, which words should be used to explain to the community the work of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study?
Using the term ‘recharge’ was still causing the group worries during their last meeting, and they considered changing the word to ‘infiltration’. However, in order to stay consistent with word usage in state law, they decided to keep the word ‘recharge’.
Phase II  of the Study - Scoping
At the last scheduled meeting to wrap up their original time commitment to LOTT, staff took an informal round-the-room poll of members to see if they were willing to continue in their positions into Phase II of the study. Reflecting their dedication and interest, almost all the advisory board members agreed to continue on with their commitment to the process.

Phase II of the study will identify the actual activities of the study goals, activities, who will conduct the activities, the actual schedule and cost of the study. A draft public involvement plan has been developed and was discussed. The group will meet again in late July and hold an informational open house for the public on its work thus far in late September. Phase II is expected to be completed by January 2014.
There are several challenges to this multi-year study, as with any long – term regional plan: the diverse levels of interest, knowledge and understanding of water related topics, evolving and varied viewpoints of current science, a lack of regulatory guidelines regarding reclaimed water, and the fact that LOTT is already infiltrating reclaimed water at Hawks Prairie. In fact, the cities of Lacey and Olympia are expected to begin sub-surface infiltration as part of their Woodland Creek Infiltration Project in the Fall of 2013.

Above: Ben McConkey, LOTT Clean Water Alliance facilities coordinator and project manager for the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, gives a community tour today of the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant in downtown Olympia. Here, McConkey shows a layer of scum being skimmed off the top of water in the Primary Clarifier area of the plant.  
Ongoing Questions and Growth in South Sound

Some members of the community, as well as members of the groundwater advisory group, question why groundwater recharge continues while the groundwater study is underway.

Karla Fowler, LOTT Community Relations and Environmental Policy Director, answered some of these questions at the last advisory group meeting:
Why not just discharge more wastewater to Puget Sound, instead of infiltrating reclaimed water? Short answer, there are limits to discharging more to marine waters, and Budd Inlet is already an impaired water system. Fowler discussed two ongoing state Department of Ecology studies that may soon require the LOTT Alliance to put less water into Budd Inlet.

Is this study just a marketing plan to “sell” the public on infiltration because there are no alternatives? Fowler emphatically says no, that LOTT is just trying to understand the science so local decision makers can reaffirm or change what they are doing. She says there are alternatives, but they are different than what has been studied before, such as cleaning the water to a higher level through a reverse osmosis process. 
Why recharge when we live in a place where there is plenty of water? Are groundwater supplies really limited? All our water resources are connected and there is very little clean water available when we need it due to seasonal needs and usage, growth, and related stormwater runoff issues. Our region’s growth is one reason why this study is needed. Increased water demands, and where and how to use wastewater is critical.

Fowler also said using reclaimed water for non-drinking purposes helps directly supplement water supplies. Infiltrating reclaimed water can be used as mitigation to help the cities acquire new water rights. She explained that that’s the reason the cities of Lacey and Olympia are working together on the Woodland Creek Infiltration Project. That project allowed Lacey to acquire new water rights by using reclaimed water to recharge groundwater at the Community Park on Pacific Avenue, east of Carpenter Road.

But, she says, the cities interest in water rights mitigation is not the sole driver for LOTT to infiltrate reclaimed water. LOTT produces reclaimed water and sells it to the cities for $1 a year. It is up to the cities to decide how to use that water, for irrigation or stream flow enhancement, for example. If the cities do not make use of the water, LOTT must have an outlet for it, and that is where the infiltration basins come in. Ultimately, LOTT is tasked with responding to our communities needs for wastewater treatment – existing and future.
Fowler said the groundwater community advisory group has raised a lot of good questions. “We hope to keep chipping away at those questions, providing more answers as we continue to work with you through the next phases of the study,” she said.

The decision to use reclaimed water in our groundwater ultimately lies with the LOTT Board of Directors, composed of four elected officials, one from each jurisdiction, currently held by City of Lacey councilmember Cynthia Pratt (chair), City of Olympia councilmember Steve Langer, City of Tumwater councilmember Tom Oliva, and Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero.  
Even before the ultimate decision comes to them, advisory board members have already made several recommendations on how to start educating the community and all Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater city council members and Thurston County commissioners on the issue now.

Tour the LOTT Facility

Ben McConkey, LOTT's facilities coordinator and project manager for the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, gave a public tour today of LOTT's Budd Inlet Treatment Plant. The tour provides a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes work of the facility, which includes seeing a screener with small holes that takes out baby wipes, condoms, tampons, rags, bottles, sticks, leaves and other materials that shouldn't be in the system. Primary and secondary clarifiers and ultraviolet lights further process the water so it can be discharged to Budd Inlet or used for other uses such as irrigation and other non-drinking purposes.
Above: One of the secondary clarifier basins. The Market Center building and the Olympia Farmer's Market can be seen from the LOTT facility in downtown Olympia.
At the end of the two hour tour, McConkey answered several questions and thanked today's group of ten people for coming. McConkey, who has a background of nearly 25 years in water and wastewater issues, regularly gives tours to adults and children.
Lacey resident Joel Carlson said, "Now I have even more questions. Recycling toilet water into tap water doesn't sound that good, but it makes sense." Carlson said his sister lives in Orange County, California where reclaimed water is treated to the highest level through reverse osmosis. He came on today's tour to educate himself about the water system here in Thurston County.
"I've lived here about five years and recently attended a "Sustainable Thurston" teach-in about growth issues sponsored by the Carnegie Group. In order to accommodate growth, we're going to have to look at higher density - I don't see any other way unless you want to see sprawl. The trick is to do it right."
"We put a lot of pressure on our water resources," said McConkey. "We use it, dirty it, and throw it away. I'm glad to see the interest - it's complex....One of the passions I have is water and my goal is to help you learn enough to be informed."
About the groundwater study specifically, McConkey said, "When I talk about it, I hear a whole spectrum of comments from, 'Why are you bothering me with that?' to very specific concerns. I find that if we don't get everyone's ideas to the best of our ability to help us identify key questions, we won't answer our questions about the best scientific methods and procedures...At least we can inform ourselves of the best options to take. A lot of good ideas can come out of that."

For more information about the membership of the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, the LOTT Alliance, compounds of emerging concern, and other water issues, go to and type key words, using the search button.
For more information on the Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study, or to go on a tour of LOTT at 500 Adams St. NE in downtown Olympia, call (360) 664-2333 or go to .
The WET Science Center at LOTT offers kid and adult friendly interactive exhibits, activities and presentations that explain our local water system. For more information, go to
The Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study group meeting minutes are available online. Audio DVDs of actual discussions are available by request. All meetings are open to the public. For more information on upcoming meetings, contact Lisa Dennis-Perez, LOTT Public Communications Manager, at (360) 528-5719 or
Full Disclosure: Janine Unsoeld was one of 53 members of the community selected to participate in a one-on-one interview to discuss personal perspectives, knowledge and opinions of LOTT, the use of reclaimed water, and general local water issues. My interview was conducted by Patsy Tennyson, facilitator and consultant with Katz & Associates. Comments were anonymously incorporated into a prepared summary report dated May 8, 2013. Participants were not informed or knowledgeable of who else was being interviewed. The full list of interviewed participants can be viewed in the report under Appendix A of the report.

I have also attended every meeting of the groundwater advisory group except one, and have spoken as an individual during time for public comment. My remarks centered around a request for the possibility of televising groundwater advisory board and LOTT Board of Directors meetings for greater transparency and public education and involvement.  These comments and advisory board responses can be viewed in the group’s meeting minutes.

Above: The "stream" outside the Hands On Children's Museum next door to the LOTT facility is created with reclaimed water and permitted as a wading pool.