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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Get Wet: The LOTT Clean Water Alliance Science Center in Olympia

On Saturday, I went on a field trip with my son's boy-scout troop to LOTT.  Now I'll be honest here, I wasn't overly excited for a field trip to LOTT.  If I could have chosen, surely I would have traded my husband to get out of this one but instead, there I was, as the trusty parent which is par for the course.

My memories of lot were years of going on a camping vacations concluded by pulling the trailer into downtown Olympia to 'dump' (no pun intended but all the while clever).  Dumping sometimes seemed to take forever, depending on the number of vehicles in front of us.  My memory recalls I never opened the vehicle door for fear of the stench.  And if memory serves, which is spotty at best, I think one time the mechanism broke and my dad ended up with a mess on his hands.  Enter latex gloves.

So on this field trip, I was extremely impressed.  The original sewage Treatment Plant for the area was built in Olympia by the City to meet its own waste water needs in 1949.  Much upgrading has happened over the past 50 years and In 2004, the first upgrade at the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant occurred, with the addition of a new Class A Reclaimed Water sand filter system. The same year, construction began on LOTT's first satellite facilities – the Martin Way Reclaimed Water Plant, constructed Wetland Ponds, and Groundwater Recharge Basins that make up the Hawks Prairie Reclaimed Water Satellite.  Our visit to LOTT's WET (Water Education and Technology) Science Center is an exhibit gallery and classroom which opened in 2010 to provide the community with a fun, hands-on opportunity for learning.

Four important details we learned on our two hour long visit included:

  1. LOTT stands for Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, Thurston County
  2. LOTT is made up of over 100 acres total
  3. LOTT's energy bill is over $100,000 each month
  4. Can you guess when a very high usage of toilet flushing occurs each year?  During Superbowl halftime.
The heart of LOTT's system is the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant. Wastewater flowing to the plant currently comes from almost 50,000 homes, apartments, and commercial/industrial connections served by the sewer utilities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater. From homes and businesses, the wastewater flows through a series of underground pipes to the plant. The treatment plant is located at the north end of Adams Street, between downtown Olympia and the Port of Olympia.

About 10-12 million gallons of wastewater flow through the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant on an average day. During the wettest months, flows have averaged as high as 22.3 million gallons per day (mgd). The quality of the water LOTT discharges is regulated by the Washington State Department of Ecology under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

For both residential and multi-family customers, the High-Efficiency Toilet Program is worth checking out.  You may be eligible to participate in one of the high-efficiency toilet (HET) programs - programs where proven, state-of-the-art HET fixtures are available to City of Olympia water customers.  HETs use an average of 1.2 gallons of water per flush.  If you currently have toilets that use 3 gallons or more per flush, you can save an average of 37 gallons per day, or over 13,500 gallons per year, by installing HET fixtures!
There are two HET Programs available to City of Olympia water customers;  one for sewer customers and one for non-sewer/septic customers.  Please note: These programs are subject to available funds;  program ends when funds are expended, or by December 31, 2012.

City of Olympia Sewer Customers:

The LOTT Clean Water Alliance is offering sewer customers FREE HETs!  LOTT offers fixtures free of charge because the installation reduces wastewater flow to the treatment facility, and can help delay the need to build new treatment capacity.  Download the forms below (PDF) for available toilet models and additional information:
        Toilet Models         

City of Olympia Non-Sewer Customers 

The City of Olympia is offering water customers who do not receive sewer service HETs at a reduced rate - splitting our cost 50/50 with our customers!  Download the forms below (PDF) for available toilet models and more information: 
         Toilet Models 
         Residential Program Application  

Contact WATER WISE Staff:

The WET Science Center is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, located in LOTT's Regional Services Center, at 500 Adams Street NE, in downtown Olympia, just two blocks northeast of the Olympia Transit Station. For directions and printable map, click here

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