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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Art Starry, Environmental Health Division at (360) 867-2587

County Lifts Ward Lake Swimming Warning

Water samples from Ward Lake show fecal coliform levels dropped significantly in the last week, which means swimmers, boaters and waterskiers can once again enjoy the last warm days before fall weather sets in. County health officials have lifted the no-swimming warning for Ward Lake posted on August 31 when they first detected fecal coliform bacteria levels well above the state standard.

While people and pets can once again enjoy Ward Lake, county health officials remind people to stay safe in open, untreated waters like lakes and rivers with a few simple tips.

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe, and to keep the water safe for other users, too:
  • Shower before you swim.

  • Keep children who are not toilet trained out of the water.

  • Do not swim if you have a skin infection.

  • Keep pets off the beach and out of the swimming areas. Remember to scoop the poop, and NEVER dispose of pet waste in a lake or river.

  • Avoid areas with algae blooms or obvious pollution nearby.

  • Avoid large crowds of swimmers.

  • Don't drink untreated surface water from lakes or rivers. It's almost impossible to avoid swallowing some water when you swim, but the less you swallow, the less likely you'll consume enough to make you sick.

  • ALWAYS wash your hands before eating or handling food, especially after you swim.

  • Protect yourself from swimmer's itch. Avoid swimming in areas where there is evidence of ducks and geese. Use a towel to dry off immediately after swimming.

  • Remember to use a good waterproof sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before you swim, and re-apply it often throughout the day.

The no-swimming warning was first posted when tests revealed fecal coliform levels that were more than 10 times the state standard of 50 parts per 100ml of water. But 19 samples taken in the last week show that bacteria levels have dropped significantly - all samples showed levels below the state threshold, and 17 samples showed bacteria levels less than one-tenth the state standard.

Water clarity at Ward Lake has also improved. When the no-swimming warning was posted in August, the water was murky and officials could only see less than one meter below the surface in some areas. But the latest tests conducted within the last week report that testers could see five meters or more below the surface. Algae blooms in the lake have also died off.

While water quality has improved and the no-swimming warning for Ward Lake has been lifted, county health officials and City of Olympia crews were not able to identify the source of the pollution. Staff from the county's Environmental Health Division will continue to work with city officials to search for the source of the pollution, and will continue to monitor water quality at Ward Lake. The public can contact the Thurston County Environmental Health Division office at (360) 867-2626 with questions about water quality at Ward Lake or other area lakes, or to report water quality issues.

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.



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3