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EPA Proposal Would Unclog Steilacoom Lake, Reduce Threats to Fish in Chambers Creek

Release Date: 3/15/1999
Contact Information: Alan Henning
(206) 553-8293

March 15, 1999 - - - - - - - - - - 99-12  



To keep Steilacoom Lake in Pierce County from being clogged with weeds and to prevent damage to salmon in a creek that connects the lake with Puget Sound, the U.S. Environmental Protection today proposed deep reductions in the amount of phosphorous flowing into the lake and similar curtailments in the volumes of copper that flow out of the lake into Chambers Creek.

Announcement of the proposal was made today by  Julie Hagensen, director of EPA’s Washington operations office in Olympia.    

"Phosphorous fuels the growth of noxious aquatic weeds, so cutting off the high phosphorous will help improve the health of the lake," Hagensen declared.   "As things stand now, the volumes of phosphorous entering from Clover Creek and its tributaries upstream create plant life in such abundance that it destroys the boating and other recreational values of the lake."

The phosphorous entering the Lake comes from a variety of sources, said Hagensen,with more than 80 percent from stormwater and other runoff that enters from Clover Creek and Ponce de Leon Creek.  The origin of that inflow, according to information on which  EPA based  its proposal, is  mostly from land under the jurisdiction of Pierce County (75 percent). Relatively minor contributions come from land controlled by Fort Lewis (13 percent), McChord Air Force Base (8 percent) and the city of Lakewood       (4 percent).

Some possible remedies to the problems could include further restrictions on the amount of phosphorous released from stormwater discharges and strict reductions in herbicide applications.

"When copper-based herbicides are used to kill the unwanted vegetation, the result is that the copper flows out of the lake into Chambers Creek and builds up sediments in concentrations that violate water quality standards and pose a toxic threat to fish," Hagensen added.

According to the EPA proposal, water flowing from Steilacoom Lake into Chambers Creek is used by two state of Washington hatcheries downstream, with a third hatchery  located at the mouth of Chambers Creek where it enters Puget Sound.   Coho and chinook salmon are known to use Chambers Creek for spawning, rearing and migration.

Steilacoom Lake and Chambers Creek are among more than 600 water bodies around Washington where water quality standards -- like those for phosphorous in Steilacoom Lake or the copper in Chambers Creek -- are not being met.  The federal Clean Water Act requires that load allocations be established so that standards can be met and maintained.

Load allocations are based on calculations of  how much of a certain pollutant a body of water can receive without violating water quality standards.  Once that limit is determined, then it’s a matter of allocating how much of that pollutant can be allowed to enter that water body.

Copies of the EPA proposal, entitled "Total Maximum Daily Loads for Phosphorous in Steilacoom Lake and Copper in Chambers Creek," can be obtained by contacting Alan Henning at (206) 553-8293.  Henning can also be reached at (800) 424-4372, a toll-free number for callers from Washington, Idaho, Oregon or Alaska.  Henning’s e-mail address is .

EPA encourages public comment on its proposal.  Written comments may be submitted Alan Henning, c/o Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Stop OW-134, 1200 Sixth Avenue, Seattle 98101.  Comments must be submitted by April 16.