Frequently Asked Questions
What is the goal of the project?
The goal of the project is to ensure that drinking water from the Scatter Creek aquifer is safe now and in the future.
Why is the Health Department doing this?
Water quality monitoring data and
an evaluation of the area geology show that the aquifer is
highly vulnerable to pollution.
- To evaluate conditions now gives
us the best chance to maintain and improve water quality
in the Scatter Creek aquifer.
Why is the Health Department doing this now?
The health department and the Thurston County Board of Health have been
concerned about declining water quality in the Scatter Creek aquifer for
some time. The health department applied for a number of grants to support
similar projects in recent years, but none were approved. Now that we have
secured grant funding, we are able to move forward with the computer modeling,
stakeholder and community outreach work that are necessary the projectís success.
What will the project do?
- The citizen advisory committee will help the
health department evaluate the pollution risks to the
aquifer under current land use and septic system regulations.
- The committee will help us evaluate future land use and
septic system development scenarios and determine the risks associated with them.
- Based on monitoring data, scientific literature, computer model results and citizen input
an action plan will be developed to protect the groundwater quality and the health of
the residents. The plan will be presented to the Thurston County Board of Health
for consideration and approval.
How can I tell if my drinking water is safe?
Test the water regularly to see if meets drinking water quality standards.
If your water comes from a community well or a water system, the water must be
tested regularly and customers notified if the water does not meet drinking
water standards. More details are available from our
If you have an individual well, it is
up to you to test your water to be sure it meets drinking
- Test your water for bacteria
and nitrates at least once a year.
- If there is an infant, a
pregnant woman, or a woman who is trying to get pregnant in
your home, test more than once a year.
- If your water does not meet drinking water standards,
consider options such as installing a water treatment system or getting bottled
- For more information on water testing,
Why examine the area's septic
Over time, land use is converting from agricultural to
residential use. Septic systems are a known source of nitrogen and
bacterial contaminants. A septic system for a three-bedroom home is
designed to handle 360 gallons of sewage per day.
- Preliminary groundwater modeling (computer analysis) of the
area indicates pollution from septic systems could be
significant in some areas.
Is the county going to make us replace our septic
systems, or convert to sewer?
The purpose of the study is to evaluate
the pollution loads associated with septic systems and land
use activities and develop a plan to protect the ground
water. The citizen advisory committee will work with the
health department to study the issues and make
recommendations to include in the plan. Options
for managing pollution from septic systems will be open for
discussion through this project. Options could include upgrading existing systems as
well as establishing stricter standards for future septic
systems. Community sewer service is also an alternative method of managing
sewage disposal and could be considered, however, sewers
cannot be extended into the rural area under current state
law (the Growth Management Act). What the plan ultimately recommends will be the
result of careful consideration of the scientific
information and input from the community.
Will this project affect what I can do with my property?
The project could result in recommendations to change current land use and/or
septic system regulations. Depending on the results of the groundwater modeling
and the findings of the advisory committee, the plan could address existing land
uses or new development or both or neither. The goal of the project is to protect
the quality of this vulnerable and essential groundwater resource for current
and future residents of the area without unduly restricting property uses and
impacting property value. That is why it is important to have input from as many
different perspectives as possible from community representatives.
How will the recommendations be paid for?
This project is funded in part by a grant from the Washington State Department
of Ecology, and will pay for the well sampling, groundwater modeling, and plan
development. Once a plan is drafted with recommendations for specific actions to
protect the groundwater, then financing options for those actions will be considered.
How were the people who serve on the citizen advisory committee
The committee membership needs to provide balance and
represent the diversity of perspectives and interests that
exist in the Scatter Creek area.
Project staff met with the Board of Health on June 7, 2012
to get guidance on criteria and the process the Board
use to choose the Scatter Creek Citizen Advisory Committee
The Board of Health asked for an
application from each
prospective committee member, as well as a letter of
interest. They asked to receive all
applications and letters of interest as well as
By the original July 16, 2012 deadline, we received applications from a
small number of prospective committee members. The Board of
Health asked staff to continue the recruitment process
focused on recruiting members from missing perspectives, to
ensure that the committee represents a broad spectrum of
individuals and interests.
Eleven citizen advisory committee members were appointed at the October 9, 2012
Board of Health meeting. All live, own property, or work in the Scatter Creek
Aquifer Area. Committee members indicated they could
represent the following interests: neighborhood
associations, long-time residents, newcomers, youth,
retirees, ROOF (Rochester Organization of Families),
agricultural interests, fishing, infants or young children in the home, fixed income,
Spanish speaking, property rights, environmental, renters, Rochester
Grand Mound Business Group, water system operators,
builders/developers, property owners, and fishing.
How will area residents be informed about project
Throughout the project, information and materials will be posted on the project
website as it is developed. In addition to the project introduction letter mailed
in April 2012, there will be other direct mailings to residents throughout the course
of the project. At least 3 community events are planned at key points in the project
development to get feedback and input from the community. Members of the community
are welcome to attend the advisory committee meetings to listen to the discussion. The
website address is
You can always call or email project staff with ideas or concerns at 360-867-2582 and
When will the project start?
The project began in March 2012, and needs to be completed by December 2014.
Groundwater monitoring is under way. The citizen advisory
committee was appointed in October 2012, and began meeting in
The land use risk analysis and computer modeling will begin
2013, and we plan to have the draft action plan ready by the end of 2013.
Complete answers to questions from
the Community Workshop will be posted here by mid-September.
Thanks for your patience.