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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, September 7, 2012
Art Starry, Environmental Health Division, 360-867-2587
Andy Haub, City of Olympia, 360-753-8475

New Tests Still Show Bacteria in Ward Lake - No Swimming Through Weekend

OLYMPIA - Water samples from Ward Lake taken Tuesday still show high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which will keep the lake closed to swimming and recreation through this weekend and until water quality improves.

Signs that warn people and pets to keep out of the water remain posted at community beaches and the public boat ramp at Ward Lake due to the continued presence of high bacteria levels. Thurston County health officials warn that the latest tests show fecal coliform bacteria levels that are unsafe for swimming, water-skiing and water activities for people and pets. People should not swim, wade or otherwise use Ward Lake for recreational or other activities until testing shows the water to be safe.

The latest round of water quality tests conducted Tuesday showed fecal coliform levels are still over the state's limit for swimming and other primary water contact activities. One sample showed bacteria levels at more than 12 times the limit of 50 fecal coliform parts for every 100 ml of water. Samples taken August 29 showed similar levels of bacteria.

City of Olympia crews completed an inspection of sewer pipes and sewer facilities in the Ward Lake area, but found no significant leaks or breaks, and the source of the pollution has not yet been identified. County health officials will now turn to shoreline surveys and continued water quality sampling to find the source of the pollution that's causing the bacteria.

County health officials are also asking Ward Lake residents to check their septic systems, STEP systems and grinder pumps to look for leaks or other problems that may be contributing to the pollution in the lake. The majority of the homes around the lake are connected to the city sewer system, but some neighborhoods and shoreline homes have septic systems.

While county health officials and city crews continue to analyze and investigate the issue, Ward Lake residents are advised to use a few tips to avoid illness and help keep additional pollution out of the water:

  • People and pets should stay out of the water. If you do have contact with the water, wash thoroughly with soap and clean drinking water.

  • You cannot see the dangerous bacteria, and it is not from algae blooms. Even if algae blooms shrink or disappear, the fecal coliform bacteria in Ward Lake could still be at dangerous levels.

  • Keep pet waste out of the water. Scoop the poop in your yard regularly, and don't dispose of your pet's waste in the lake.

  • Check your property for septic or sewer problems. Ward Lake residents are asked to check their septic systems, STEP systems and grinder pumps to look for leaks or any malfunctions.

  • If you see surfacing sewage or have concerns about your septic system, contact the Thurston County Environmental Health Division at (360) 867-2626.

Signs warning of no swimming will remain posted until water quality improves.

Ward Lake is a 65-acre kettle lake in southwest Olympia with one public boat launch and numerous residential or private docks and beaches along its shores. Olympia's Ward Lake Park at 2008 Yelm Highway SE abuts the lake, but there is no beach access or swimming, and public access is limited to an upland pasture. The lake is fed by groundwater, with no streams or channels carrying the lake water in or out.

No swimming, water-skiing, or other water contact due to high bacteria levels

WHEN:Effective since Aug. 29, will remain in effect until water quality improves

WHERE:Washington State Fish & Wildlife Public Boat Launchat 42nd Ave. SE off of Boulevard Road SE in Olympia, 98501

For City of Olympia sewer system questions and concerns, please contact:
Andy Haub at the City of Olympia, 360-753-8475 or ahaub@ci.olympia.wa.us

For health-related concerns, please contact:
Art Starry, Environmental Health Division, 360-867-2587 or starrya@co.thurston.wa.us



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3