Environmental Health
Scatter Creek Aquifer SEptic Management Project
  Scatter Creek Aquifer - Septic System Management Project  

Preliminary Recommendations

The preliminary recommendations to keep water in the Scatter Creek aquifer safe to drink now and in the future are now ready. The Citizen's Committee met for two years to learn about the aquifer. They concluded that:

  • The Scatter Creek Aquifer is vulnerable to contamination from septic systems and land use activities.
  • Nitrogen levels in the aquifer have decreased over time and seem to be trending lower.
  • Current aquifer conditions and worse-case model results do not warrant taking regulatory action at this time. The groundwater model predicts that average nitrate concentrations in even the most vulnerable part of the study area will be less than half the maximum contaminant level of 10 mg/l.
  • The committee wants to be cautious and monitor water quality so, if needed, we can take action before it is too late. Ideally monitoring should evaluate trends, the accuracy of the computer model, water quality in deeper areas of the aquifer, the extent and duration of water quality spikes, chemicals of emerging concern, and pathogens such as viruses.
  • In general, zoning, land use and health regulations have protected the aquifer from nitrate and many other contaminants. However, health and land use regulations can be strengthened to help assure the optimal placement of new septic systems and wells to minimize the potential for contaminating drinking water supplies.
  • The committee believes that with proper information, education, and incentives, area residents will be good stewards and take action to protect the aquifer.

Based on these conclusions, the Scatter Creek Aquifer Citizen's Committee discussed and unanimously decided the following recommendations.

After you have a chance to read them, please tell us what you think by filling out this survey, returning the form in the newsletter that was mailed to residents of the aquifer area, or contacting us (see box on right). Please comment by October 1, 2014; before the citizen's committee finalizes the recommendations to present to the Board of Health.

Project Summary

The goal of the project is to make sure water in the Scatter Creek Aquifer is safe to drink now and in the future. The three-year project will include groundwater monitoring, scientific modeling, and community input. A citizen advisory committee will evaluate scientific data and modeling to determine potential impacts on the aquifer and make recommendations to the Thurston County Board of Health and Board of County Commissioners. Funding for this project is provided by the Washington State Department of Ecology.


Click to see maps of Scatter Creek Aquifer Area

Residents living in the Scatter Creek Aquifer Area (click on the map for a larger view of the area) rely on groundwater for their drinking water. Water in this aquifer is highly vulnerable to contamination because the sandy, gravelly soils do not effectively filter out contamination. Unlike other areas, there is not another deeper aquifer below the Scatter Creek Aquifer; it is a sole-source aquifer.

Test results from private and community wells show nitrates and coliform bacteria are getting into the water. Currently, most wells tested in the area meet drinking water standards. At levels above drinking water standards, these contaminants can cause illness. We are concerned because nitrate levels in this area are some of the highest in Thurston County, with some wells exceeding drinking water standards.

For Past Studies and Reports click here.

Key Activities:

Citizen Advisory Committee (clickable link)

Committee members were appointed to the committee by the Board of Health and must live, own property, or work in the Scatter Creek Aquifer Area. The committee typically meets on the first Wednesday of the month at the Rochester School District Board Room. They learn about the area and risks posed to the drinking water by septic systems, help determine if levels of contamination are likely to cause public health concern, and develop recommendations for an action plan to ensure water in the Scatter Creek Aquifer is safe to drink now and in the future.

Your Input Is Needed ! What we've heard from you so far

We want to hear from you! After all, as residents or property owners in the Scatter Creek Aquifer Area, you are the people who drink the water and are affected by the issues. We want to know what you think, what we may be missing, and solutions that we may not have thought of.

Here's what we have heard from you so far.

Please consider getting involved:

  • Send us an e-mail or sign-up for updates.
  • Attend community workshops.
  • Observe Citizen Advisory Committee meetings.
  • Provide feedback or suggestions through our website, at listening posts at community workshops, or by phone (call 360-867-2582).
  • Read periodic newsletters and updates.
  • Visit the project website regularly.

Read comments about the project and get answers to Frequently Asked Questions.


STudies & Links
  • Gerald Tousley
    Project Manager
  • Jane Mountjoy-Venning
    Community Liaison
  • Send an e-mail or sign-up for updates here.
This page last updated: 01/08/15