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EPA issues final TMDL for Pierce County’s Steilacoom Lake

Release Date: 3/1/2000
Contact Information: Alan Henning
(206) 553-8293

March 1, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - - - 00-014

To help protect water quality in Steilacoom Lake, including human health, recreation and wildlife habitat values, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for this 53 acre lake located near the City of Lakewood in Pierce County. The TMDL was written to help meet a federal court-ordered schedule to protect water quality throughout the state.

TMDLs provide an analysis of the sources of pollution that cause a lake, river or stream to not meet state water quality standards. Such sources typically include point sources (like outfall pipes) and non-point sources (including runoff from fields and roads). A TMDL establishes waste load allocations for the point sources and load allocations for the non-point sources of pollutants which are protective of the state’s water quality standards. These allocations determine how much of a pollutant can be discharged to a water body by sources and still meet water quality standards. For water bodies that currently do not meet water quality standards, the TMDL identifies how much the discharge from sources of the pollutant need to be reduced in order to protect water quality.

According to Alan Henning, EPA’s TMDL Coordinator for Washington, “TMDLs are important water quality protection tools. Development and implementation of TMDLs are an essential step on the road to recovery for Washington’s polluted (impaired) waters and we hope that this TMDL is effective in restoring the water quality of the lake. Issuing this TMDL also contributes to the effort by the state and EPA to meet the schedule for establishing these protection measures.”

This TMDL establishes specific allocations for phosphorus, which has been identified as the pollutant responsible for stimulating growth of aquatic algae and plants in the lake. This growth has affected aquatic organisms, fish and human health. Toxic algae blooms, which can injure both people and pets, have also occurred. The principle sources of phosphorus loading to Steilacoom Lake are from runoff from residential and commercial development and agricultural lands in the watershed. The largest streams in the watershed include Clover Creek, Spanaway Creek and Morey Creek. Steilacoom Lake is also the headwater of Chambers Creek, an important salmon stream.

Limitations on copper discharges to the lake are also set by this TMDL. Copper-based aquacides have historically been applied directly in the lake to control and algae growth. Such applications have caused copper levels in the lake and Chambers Creek to violate water quality standards and copper concentrations in the lake sediment are documented to be among the highest in the state. Testing of the sediment has been shown it to be toxic to benthic test organisms.

Implementation of the phosphorus allocations will be achieved by establishing limitations in the stormwater discharge permits issued to municipalities and the military facility in the Steilacoom Lake watershed. Any future permits issued for the use of copper in the lake will include limitations that represent the TMDL allocations.

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