Thursday, October 10, 2013

LOTT Groundwater Recharge Study - Public Workshop October 23

Above: This orb spider, who was not paid for his opinion today, does not think the topic of water is boring.

LOTT Focus Group Members Think Study Title, Topic Is Boring - Groundwater Study Name Changed, Goal Refined

By Janine Unsoeld

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance (LOTT) will host a public workshop about its multi-year groundwater recharge scientific study on Wednesday, October 23, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m., in the LOTT Board Room at 500 Adams Street NE in downtown Olympia.
The LOTT Clean Water Alliance is designing a study to answer questions about chemicals in our water, what happens to them in the environment, and risks they may pose to our drinking water and other water resources. LOTT staff and groundwater study group citizen advisory group members will be available to answer questions.

The evening format is scheduled as follows:
6:30 p.m. Open House with Information Stations
7:00 p.m. Presentations about the Study Design
7:45 p.m. Discussion Sessions
8:30 p.m. Open House

For more information, call Lisa Dennis-Perez, LOTT public communications manager at (360) 528-5719 or
LOTT staff has acknowledged they are late in launching a public awareness campaign for its first public workshop on October 23. A second public workshop will be held in December.

A direct mailing about the October 23 workshop will go out this week to those who have previously expressed interest in the study, as well as radio, email and social media announcements, and advertisements in The Olympian newspaper.
Above: LOTT board members and staff at yesterday's work session meeting.
LOTT Board Changes Groundwater Study Name, Goal
The LOTT Clean Alliance is a regional water and wastewater treatment facility representing the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater and Thurston County.
The LOTT Board of Directors is composed of Cynthia Pratt, chair and Lacey councilmember, Steve Langer, Olympia councilmember, Tom Oliva, Tumwater councilmember, and Sandra Romero, Thurston County commissioner.
At its work session on October 9, LOTT board members agreed by consensus to change the name of the study from the LOTT Groundwater Recharge Scientific Study to its new name, the LOTT Reclaimed Water Infiltration Study.

The reason for the name change came from a recommendation by LOTT staff after they met with three focus groups in late September. The groups were made up of 34 self-selected individuals who were paid to provide LOTT staff their feedback on a series of questions and pictures related to the study.

These participants were paid $75 each at the end of the two hour session held in the LOTT board room. They were asked a series of questions about the study title and terminology such as “compounds of emerging concern” and “reclaimed water” vs. “recharged water.”
Among other comments, they felt the study title was boring, and the term "scientific" was disingenuous. Although some felt an alternative word for "recharge" could be "infiltration," some felt this sounded too militaristic. Others liked the word.
In general, LOTT staff reported that participants felt the topic was not sexy enough to get people's attention, and needed a subtitle and graphic to illustrate its purpose.
Participants were also shown images of household products and asked what words they would use to describe the process of introducing into the region’s groundwater aquifers treated water contaminated with products most of us use everyday, such as shampoo and medicines.
LOTT board member Tom Oliva questioned the new title of the study, and the makeup of the focus groups, saying that the participants did not necessarily align with the demographics of the study. He was also concerned that the words “groundwater” and “scientific” were taken out.
After a robust one and a half hour discussion, which included a review of a draft flyer about the upcoming public workshop, the board agreed to the new name change and made minor changes to the flyer.

LOTT board member Sandra Romero said she wanted the flyer to convey to the public that some chemicals that remain in the water may require a higher level of treatment.
"We are not stuck – we’re trying to find the safest level – and way - to infiltrate treated water into our aquifers," she said. She also suggested that the context for why we need to do this be included on the flyer and in workshop presentations.

New Study Goal and Question

In response to a request by LOTT board members to come up with a one-line study goal and a one-line primary study question, the following was offered, and agreed upon:

Goal: Provide local scientific data and community perspectives to help policymakers make informed decisions about future reclaimed water treatment uses.
Primary Study Question: What are the risks from infiltrating reclaimed water into groundwater because of chemicals that may remain in the water from products people use every day, and what can be done to reduce those risks?

Groundwater Peer Review Panel Selected

Ben McConkey, LOTT groundwater study project manager, also presented to the LOTT board members during their work session a near-final list of panelists who are interested and available in serving as peer review panel members to the LOTT Reclaimed Water Infiltration Study.
LOTT board members agreed to accept the members, who will be paid a $750 stipend per day of work, with travel and hotel expenses paid by LOTT. McConkey says the panelists will meet about five to seven times over the next three years, and will work about a week before each meeting, attend meetings, and assist with follow-up.

LOTT staff and board members made suggestions to the list for consideration. McConkey worked with the National Water Research Institute to provide a balance of disciplines needed to oversee the study. The Institute made the final selections. The finalists are:

Water Reuse and Public Health/Criteria: Dr. James Crook, Ph.D. Environmental Engineering Consultant, Boston;

Chemistry: Dr. Jennifer Field, Ph.D., professor, Oregon State University

Water Treatment: Dr. David Stensel, Ph.D., P.E., professor, University of Washington, Seattle

Hydrogeology: Dr. Roy Haggerty, Ph.D., retired, Oregon State University

Public Health and Toxicology: Dr. Richard Bull, MoBull Consulting, Richland, Washington.

Full biographies will be posted on the LOTT website.
A sixth member of the panel is still being sought to represent a local perspective. Several area tribal representatives have been approached to participate, but no one has come forth.
Commissioner Romero urged that the person have experience with the study of compounds of emerging concern, now being called residual chemicals by the study, on fish populations.
 Above: Salmon at Tumwater Falls Park agree:
Water is not a boring topic.
Group Advisory Committee, Public Questions Study Purpose, Data

As the study enters Phase II, the framework of the study is falling into four main areas: water quality characterization, treatment effectiveness, risk assessment, and cost/benefit analysis.

The community advisory committee, now composed of 13 members, met again in late July and October 8.  Members continue to receive LOTT and consultant information, and ask questions.
At the Study’s groundwater citizen advisory group meeting on October 8, group members heard more reports about how risk assessments define acceptable levels of exposure to chemicals in the water, and what levels of treatment are used for groundwater recharge in other areas such as the southwest and western states.

Despite the deluge of technical materials provided by LOTT staff and consultants, many members still struggled to define their role - since LOTT has existing and proposed groundwater infiltration projects currently underway - and repeatedly returned to the purpose of the study.
When LOTT staff and consultants showed the group a series of draft workshop posters and asked for feedback, citizen advisory group member and former Olympia mayor Holly Gadbaw was surprised to learn that several properties around the county have already been purchased by LOTT for the purpose of infiltrating treated water into the aquifer.

The potential infiltration sites are: Henderson (12 acres), Rixie Road (32 acres), South Deschutes (49 acres), East Mullen (five acres), and the existing Hawks Prairie infiltration site of 41 acres. The water sampling plan is to study what’s in the groundwater at 20 - 30 domestic wells, and 10 city and community wells in each area.

The Woodland Creek infiltration site in Lacey off Pacific Avenue, currently under construction, is not operated by LOTT – it is an agreement between the cities of Olympia and Lacey. Groundwater monitoring of current conditions at this site has been going on there for about six months.

“This raises a whole bunch of questions…how were these sites chosen?” asked Gadbaw.

Citizen advisory group member Maureen Canny expressed great concern about living in the Hawks Prairie area and wondered if any epidemiological studies are planned for the area. The answer from LOTT staff and consultants was that no epidemiological studies are planned, just toxicological and put it in a risk assessment framework.

The Hawks Prairie recharge site began operations in 2006, and enough time has passed that there would now be interaction with groundwater. Canny took a quick poll of group members and asked if anyone else lived in the Hawks Prairie area, and none did.

“I hope people start thinking about it….If this is the plan, what’s going to happen? Let’s start figuring out the questions,” she asked. She expressed concern that by the time this study is complete, the Hawks Prairie facility will have been in operation for 12 years, and said that should be long enough to determine if there are any concerns, such as an increase in cancer rates.

Citizen advisory group member Lyle Fogg asked staff when people near the proposed infiltration sites will be informed of their locations.

“In my opinion, it should be sooner than later….We should inform them that we’ve already gone down the road this far….” he said.

Karla Fowler, LOTT community relations and environmental policy director, responded that that will be done through a direct mailing in the future, and that the Henderson site is planned to begin operating in 2018.

Citizen advisory group member Ruth Shearer, a retired toxicologist, questioned information provided to the group by Jeff Hansen, lead consultant of HDR Engineering, as she has also expressed at past meetings.
The risk assessment to human health that defines an acceptable daily intake level, compared to a maximum contaminant level of exposure, she said, is “based on grossly inadequate testing…these levels are not safe for populations of children with diarrhea, which is quite common, and pregnant women….The acceptable levels of exposure are not the same for all….”

She said that the acceptable daily intake level numbers, as provided, are politically edited, derived from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Reagan administration-era threshold numbers that purposely set the maximum contaminant levels too low due to the cost of treatment.
Referring to another piece of literature distributed to the group produced by the WaterReuse Research Foundation, Shearer said the information provided about therapeutic doses were all about skin absorption, not oral intake.

“It was irrelevant propaganda – there are different degrees of skin absorption for each chemical, and it did not address drinking water that may have reclaimed water introduced into it.

“These numbers make me very suspicious of the other numbers….As a toxicologist, I object to ever using the therapeutic dose in risk assessment – that’s why they’re prescription drugs – the therapeutic dose applies to them, but (the study should examine) the effect on normal people….”

There are thousands of unregulated contaminants, but the study plans to study 97 unregulated compounds of emerging concern, or residual chemicals, that are often found in reclaimed water and known to persist in the environment. Contaminants include medicines, personal care products, foods, hormones, and household chemicals.

Dennis Burke, a water system civil engineer based in Olympia, has attended most study committee group meetings and has offered information to committee members during public comment period. He has frequently been critical of the information provided to committee members.

On Wednesday, Burke said he has started a website at to provide the community alternative information about LOTT and study omissions. He said he'll be adding to it over the next few weeks to feature articles from scientific journals regarding viruses, genetic material, and antibiotics. He said the website will have a comment section and invite contributions.
Did You Know?
The following questions were offered by LOTT's focus group participants to provide attention-grabbing information about the LOTT groundwater study:

Did you know…
  • Some of the water you use and wash down the drain is treated and cleaned so it can be used again as reclaimed water?
  • Some of the medicines and chemicals from products you use every day may remain in reclaimed water?
  • Some reclaimed water is infiltrated into groundwater, our region’s source of drinking water?
For more articles and information about the LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s groundwater recharge study, now called the LOTT Reclaimed Water Infiltration Study, go to and type key words into the search button and/or go to