The student news site of Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.

Pierce is in a Crappy Situation

The source of sewage leak into Waughop Lake is found and linked right here.

February 8, 2017

Pierce College has been recently fined for a number of safety discrepancies, and as of January 2017 has been found to be the source of a sewage leak to Waughop Lake behind campus. The sewage that was originally spotted by a pedestrian back in November has drawn the attention of the Health Department, the City of Lakewood, and the Washington State Department of Ecology. Xandir Kleppen, a student at Pierce College made sightings in the lake, “I’ve seen tampons floating in the water out there.”

                  The testing for the validity of the claims of sewage originating on campus began in November 2016; they were conducted as dye tests. These are performed by dyeing water in manholes on campus with green dye and watching for spillage out of the drain, in the lake. At first, the tests came back negative, showing none of the green-dyed water flowing from the pipe that leads into Pierce College. Later, however, more thorough tests were conducted during times of sewage over-flow that proved, under certain conditions, the sewage from Pierce College could and had entered Lake Waughop.

These leaks occur for two reasons: heavy flooding of the campus storm drains, and the two sewage pumps installed to protect these storm drains failure. The failure of these pumps is likely caused by the flushing of certain wipes and other toiletries; even ones labeled flushable. When these pumps back-up, producing overflow, the extra sewage material travels to the next possible place; the storm drains. Brian Benedetti, the Director of Marketing for Pierce College, has said, “There’s a cross between the storm and sewage system.” This cross creates the passage for the overflow to head right for the lake. This flaw was a part of the sewage system designs in 1971, before a lot of major environmental protection laws had been passed.

These recent tests were not the first to be conducted about this same issue here at Pierce. In 2008 similar sightings were brought to the colleges attention, but as the tests this year had initially concluded, they assumed the leak had not been from those pipes.

The leak not only causes harm to the lakes wildlife, it also presents a major issue for the college; Pierce College is in violation of Washington State law. According to RCW (Revised Codes of Washington) 90.48 it is illegal, “…to throw, drain, run, or otherwise discharge into any of the waters of this state… any organic or inorganic matter that shall cause or tend to cause pollution of such waters.” The RCW continues on to say that if, “…found guilty of willfully violating any of the provisions of this chapter or chapter… upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of up to ten thousand dollars…” This entails that if the school does not actively attend promptly to this problem they could face up to a $10,000 fine per day of persisting negligence.

Plans to fix the leak are already in the works. Jim Taylor, Director of Facilities and Construction Manager, has said the school is, “…taking this very seriously and taking aggressive action.” Contractors are soon to be hired to dig up and cap off the cross point of the two pipe systems, and designs for a new, more capable pump system are being drawn up. Along with these long-term solutions, work with the City of Lakewood has already begun to remove the debris from the lake, as of mid-January 2017.

The costs for this project are exorbitant. According to Choi Halladay, Pierce Colleges Vice President of Administrative Services, the costs with testing and the temporary cap off have racked up a $40,000 bill and the rest of the new build is expected to amount anywhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 on top of that. When all is said and done, the costs and temporary construction blockades are all going to be worth it, to keep the poop in the pipes.

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