Browse the list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about public works and water, sewer and stormwater utility related questions. Answers will expand below the question when you select it. Filter questions by selecting the category under the drop-down menu.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants when going out at dusk or in the early morning.
- Avoid going into mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk when the insects are most active.
- Use a mosquito repellent when necessary.
Yard & House
- Repair and use screens in windows and doors.
- Find and reduce the areas in your yard where stagnant water collects such as: tarps and covers, wheelbarrows, toys, buckets, tires, cans, etc.
- Change water in birdbaths, pet dishes, potted plant saucers, animal troughs, wading pools, etc. at least weekly.
- Encourage mosquito predators in your yard. Examples are birds, bats, dragonflies, salamanders, frogs, aquatic insects, and fish.
- Clean out roof gutters so the water flows freely.
- Repair leaky faucets and sprinklers.
Mosquito Repellents – Use Wisely
Not all mosquito repellents are the same — active ingredients differ with varying strengths and effectiveness. The length of protection from mosquito bites varies with the amount of active ingredient, physical activity/perspiration, temperature, water exposure, and other factors. Before selecting a repellent, age and length of time outside should be considered. Once a repellant is chosen, be sure to carefully follow the directions on the label.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detailed information on insect repellents; see Updated Information regarding Insect Repellents.
The EPA recommends the following precautions when using insect repellents:
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not use under clothing.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not apply to eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays do not spray directly onto face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Do not allow children to handle the products, and do not apply to children's hands. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
- Do not spray in enclosed areas. Avoid breathing a repellent spray, do not use near food.
- Use just enough repellent to thinly cover exposed skin and/or clothing. If needed, apply a bit more.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
- If you suspect that you – or your child – are reacting to an insect repellent, discontinue use, wash treated skin, and then call your local poison control center. If/when you go to a doctor, take the repellent with you.
Search for a repellent that is right for you.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has their own search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products that will give you the protection you need. To use their handy search tool, please visit the EPA’s website.
For information on DEET and DEET Alternatives for children, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website healthychildren.org.
For more info, please call Water Resources (360) 754-4140.
Stormwater: I want to treat my pond, wetland, yard, etc. for mosquitoes. What or who do you recommend?At this time we do not recommend treating for mosquitoes. It is more effective to protect yourself from WNV by following the personal protection recommendations. Treatment of any water besides lined garden ponds requires both a permit from the Department of Ecology and a licensed pesticide applicator to do the work.
In general, you should not add fish or frogs to stormwater ponds, natural ponds or wetlands. Some species are known to threaten native species, and even native animals may spread wildlife diseases from one pond or lake to another. A permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is needed to release species into large ponds or water that connects to natural bodies of water.
It is permissible to release fish commonly available in pet stores into small, contained backyard garden ponds if they do not connect with, or occasionally flood into natural water bodies. Aerating small ponds and adding native plants around the edges to attract mosquito-eating birds is recommended.Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: (360) 902-2724
West Nile Virus: What about my or my neighbor’s, tarps, tire pile, or other possible breeding grounds?
Small amounts of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed is a concern because there are fewer predators to eat the young mosquitoes. Once the mosquitoes can fly, they can be eaten birds, bats and dragonflies. We encourage everyone to identify areas on their property where stagnant water collects, and either remove the containers, or empty them at least once a week. Encourage other to do the same.
In the case of dumping or unmanaged garbage, contact Community Development at (360) 754-4180. Be aware that enforcement can be a slow process. You may wish to be extra careful to use the recommended personal mosquito precautions – keeping screens in good repair, using mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves outdoors at dusk, etc.
- Wetlands and “wet” stormwater ponds have natural mosquito predators present. Many aquatic insects eat young mosquitoes, as do salamanders, tadpoles and fish. Birds, bats, dragonflies, salamanders and frogs eat adult mosquitoes. Encourage these predators, and avoid using pesticides that will harm beneficial insects.
The first rule of medicine is “Do no harm.” The City is approaching West Nile Virus (WNV) in this way. We want to be sure our response does not cause more problems than the virus. We are preparing a phased response that calls for careful monitoring of the virus, and responding prudently to the level of risk. City staff regularly attend regional WNV workgroup meetings to share information that is being collected in the area and working to develop a joint response plan, that will be implemented at the direction of the County Health Department.
In the first – and current – phase, we recommend taking personal protection actions; such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding mosquito areas at dusk, and using repellents. If we reach a stage where humans are at high risk for contracting WNV, we will alert the community and give appropriate recommendations.
Contact the Thurston County Health Department at (360) 754-3355 ext. 7524, for more information on collecting the bird for testing.
- No, WNV can only be caught from mosquitoes. The mosquitoes can infect birds, horses and people. It is not spread person-to-person, horse-to-horse, bird-to-bird, bird-to-human, etc. It is only spread by mosquitoes.
- No, there are 250 species of mosquitos known in Washington State. Thurston County has six species of mosquitos known to be able to carry WNV. Two common species, Culex pipiens and Culex tarsalis can breed in small amounts of water – such as in ditches, clogged gutters, buckets, cans, birdbaths, tires, tarps, etc. One species tends to stay within on half-mile of where it hatches; the other may fly 20 miles away. Current estimates are that less than one percent of bites from infected mosquitos will result in WNV.
It is a mosquito-borne virus that usually produces mild flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headaches and body aches. After having WNV, immunity develops – in other words, you can only get it once. Although rare, the infection can become severe and cause West Nile encephalitis, which, in some cases, can be fatal. People who are older or immune-compromised are at great risk for these complications.
From the first detection in the United States in 1999, through August 19, 2007, there were 24,551 human cases of WNV-related illness in the United States reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 981 fatalities. This compares to approximately 65,000 deaths each year from the flu.
In Washington, WNV was first diagnosed in humans during 2006 in three individuals known to have acquired the disease within the state. As of August 15, 2007, there have been no in-state human infections identified; however three horses have been confirmed positive with WNV. Although vaccines and booster shots are available for horses only, none of the horses diagnosed were treated prior to the infection.
To protect your property follow these simple tips:
- DON’T put diapers, sanitary napkins or anything else in the toilet – even if it says “Flushable!” Only flush what you’ve eaten first and toilet paper.
- DON’T dispose of grease down the drain.
- DON’T plant trees near sewer lines.
- DON’T Connect any drains or sump pumps to the sewer system.
AND, JUST IN CASE:
Locate and keep accessible the sewer cleanout in your front yard. If you do not have a cleanout, have one installed by a plumber. The cleanout is the property owner’s responsibility
Check your homeowner’s insurance policy. If you are not covered for back-ups, call your agent for information on costs and coverage options
If you experience a back-up, save all receipts related to any repair, cleaning, or damages
Report Illegal Dumping
Most catch basins connect to storm drains that discharge the runoff, without treatment, to the nearest water body. The dumping of any material such as motor oil, paint, leaves, yard clippings, pet waste, sand, etc. into a catch basin can pollute the waterways and is illegal.If you observe someone dumping into a catch basin, immediately report it to Public Works at (360) 754-4150. Calls can be received 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Thank you!
Anything, which should not be in a sewer line, has the potential of causing a blockage. For example:
Kitchen grease, disposable diapers, paper & cloth towels, sanitary napkins and even dental floss can accumulate and cause a blockage.
Tree roots seeking moisture can grow through cracks in the lines, causing a blockage.
Vandals have stopped up lines by putting bricks, wood, oil filters, bed springs, and even Christmas trees in manholes.
Illegal hookups allow excess water into the lines. Outside stairwell drains, sump pumps, roof and drain gutters should never be connected to the sewer system. A sewer system is designed to carry a predetermined amount of sewage. Rain water not only overloads the system, but also raises the cost of the treatment process.
Any overflow of the sanitary sewer including residential or commercial sewer backups or overflows from manholes in the street pose a serious public health risk. Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) damage property and the environment, and cleanup can be expensive for homeowners and the City. Additionally, when SSOs enter water bodies, they affect water quality. When bodies of water cannot be used for drinking water, fishing, or recreation, our community will face real challenges.
A sanitary sewer overflow can spill raw sewage into basements or out of manholes and onto our streets, playgrounds, and into streams, before it can reach a treatment facility.
Hazardous materials may be disposed of at HazoHouse in Lacey. HazoHouse is a free service, however, it still costs a lot of money to dispose of these items. Please do your part by reducing the amount of hazardous products you buy and use. This will help protect your health and the environment, too.
For more information on reducing household hazardous products, call (360) 754-4111 or visit the Thurston County Solid Waste website for details.
HazoHouse generally accepts:
Auto products (used motor oil, filters, antifreeze, car batteries, brake fluid); Used motor oil is also accepted at several auto-repair businesses throughout Thurston County.
- Oil-based paints and latex paint manufactured before 1989
- Thinners and solvents
- Pesticides and fertilizers
- Glues and adhesives
- Batteries (excluding alkaline)
- Solvents and cleaning supplies
- Pool and hobby chemicals
- Fluorescent light tubes, yard light bulbs and their ballasts and household compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)
- Contaminated kerosene and gasoline
- Propane tanks (no need to de-valve; 20lb/5 gallon standard barbecue tanks only)
Storm drains are for the sole purpose of draining stormwater from rain or melting snow. Knowingly or unknowingly dumping trash, pollutants and debris into catch basins is illegal. If it's a neighbor, they may not understand the catch basin's direct connection to the area’s surface waters. If you have an amicable relationship with him/her, it may be just a matter of informing and making them aware of its environmental impact. If this doesn't work, call (360) 754-4140 for assistance. Visit Spill Reporting for more information.
Dumping used oil into storm drains is illegal. One gallon of motor oil can ruin a million gallons of fresh water - a year's supply of water for 50 people. To report illegal dumping in Tumwater, call (360) 754-4140. To properly dispose of used, but uncontaminated (mixed with other fluids) motor oil, dispose of it for free at HazoHouse, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center.
The Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center is located at 2418 Hogum Bay Road N.E. in Lacey. From I-5, take Exit 111, head north on Marvin Road, and turn east into the facility entrance.
- In urban areas where much of the natural surface has been replaced by pavement and buildings, the majority of the water from storms runs off these hard surfaces and flows into and through the storm drain system. In addition, flows during dry weather, from individuals washing their cars, draining their pools and over-watering their lawns for example, also flows into the storm drain system. On a typical dry summer day, watering and washing activities can produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of water draining into the system and eventually into our local waterways. During a heavy rainstorm, this flow can increase to millions or even billions of gallons.
It sounds like a good idea. But during a rainstorm or as snow melts, leaves and trash in the streets are quickly swept into catch basins. Filters or screens installed in front of catch basins could cause leaves and trash to accumulate and clog the grate, preventing proper drainage and causing flooding hazards.Temporary filters or screens are sometimes placed in front of catch basins located near construction sites. These structures are also known as a best management practice (BMP) and are required to prevent sediment and construction site wastes from entering the storm drain system. Ponding will occur at protected catch basins, causing possible short-term flooding. There are new technologies being developed in the form of filtration or screening devices that can be installed and inserted inside catch basins.
- Paint thinner and paint products, used motor oil and antifreeze, pesticides and fertilizers, sediments containing heavy metals, Styrofoam cups and paper trash, human and animal feces, golf balls, dirty diapers and dead animals are a few of the many pollutants found in the system on a regular basis.
- Yes. There are over 1,400 publicly-owned catch basins that are cleaned at least twice a year with vacuum trucks. Problematic locations throughout the area are cleaned more frequently, because of location or repeated illegal dumping. Open ditches, swales and detention ponds are also part of the area’s storm drain system. These facilities are routinely checked and cleaned of weeds, trash and debris at least once a year.
Sewers and storm drains are two completely separate systems. The sewer system, also known as the sanitary sewer or wastewater sewage system, conveys household, commercial and industrial wastewater through a separate plumbing system into an underground sewer pipe system. Wastewater in the sanitary sewer system is from sources such as water and waste from sinks, toilets, washers and car washes. Discharges to the sanitary sewer system receive extensive treatment and filtration at the LOTT wastewater treatment plant prior to being discharged into Puget Sound. The storm drain system, after limited treatment, discharges directly into the Deschutes River, Percival Creek, infiltrates into groundwater or other body of surface water.
- A catch basin is a curbside receptacle whose function is to convey water from streets and other urban surfaces into the storm drain system. The design of this drainage structure includes a sump that captures and temporarily stores some pollutants such as oils and sediment. Regular maintenance to clean out the sump removes the stored pollutants and prevents them from washing further into the storm drain system and into receiving waters such as the Deschutes River.
- A storm drainage easement is a legal document, which allows the City access to the stormwater infrastructure on your property, both during construction and for future maintenance. Granting an easement to the City does not reduce the size of one's property, but it does create some limitations within the easement area.
The stormwater fee pays for the City to maintain the roadways and its storm drains that we all use to help prevent flooding and impacts to homes and businesses from stormwater. Funds are also allocated to various programs, such as Stream Team, to help reduce the impacts of pollutant-laden stormwater on our rivers and streams through education, outreach, and community involvement. The City also engages in numerous Capital Facilities Projects (CFPs) to enhance treatment and reduce the quantity of stormwater coming off our roadways and discharging into rivers and streams. Some of the other important components of the stormwater program include:
- Improvements to stormwater quality through monitoring and reduction of illicit discharges and pollutants
- Public information and education concerning stormwater issues
- Increased maintenance/repair of the City's stormwater system
- Development of stormwater design standards and regulations
- Field inspection/enforcement of these standards
- Construction of stormwater projects
You may not have a problem, but the runoff generated from your property contributes to problems elsewhere in the City. This program recognizes that everyone contributes to the problem (runoff and pollution), and everyone will share in the results of the stormwater program (improved water quality, reduced flooding, unimpaired access to roads, etc.). Stormwater has a public benefit of environmental stewardship and protecting our drinking water supply.
- All developed property within the City of Tumwater will pay the stormwater service fee. That includes houses, schools, public facilities, churches and businesses. The only exceptions are streets within the City. These areas are excluded because they are designed to collect and carry stormwater runoff.
- Tumwater’s stormwater service fee is based on the amount of impervious area on each property and is developed using an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). Each ERU is equivalent to 3,250 square feet of impervious area and is billed $5.70 per month. The charges to commercial, industrial and other properties with large impervious areas will be substantially more than single-family residential properties because they create much more runoff.
- Impervious surface means those disturbed or hard-surfaced areas that either prevent or retard the natural entry of water into the soil. Rooftops, buildings, streets, parking lots, sidewalks, asphalt, concrete, driveways, patios, artificial turf and storage areas are all examples of impervious surfaces. These improvements affect natural infiltration, create more runoff, increase the rate of runoff and alter runoff patterns of stormwater that drains from an area.
- Stormwater is water from rain and snowmelt. As rain and snow falls to earth in agricultural and undeveloped areas, it is either absorbed or it slowly runs off and dissipates. In a growing city like Tumwater, where rooftops and paved areas not only prevent the water from being absorbed, but also help it run off at a much faster rate, problems arise. Unmitigated, the stormwater could accumulate in many areas of the city, causing nuisance flooding and possible threats to public health and safety. Flooding is only a part of the problem. As the rain falls onto our streets and runs off, it carries with it pollutants such as gasoline, oil and heavy metals. Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are washed from lawns and other green spaces. With the passage of time, these pollutants will buildup in our waterways and underground drainage systems, causing significant environmental damage to our streams, rivers and lakes. These pollutants may also threaten our drinking water supply.
- Drinking water protection is a community-wide effort that begins with protecting our groundwater. Public education, conservation efforts and adequate utility funding are important components of this effort. The City has already established groundwater protection programs and has ordinances in place to protect our water source. To find out more, visit the Wellhead Protection page or call (360) 754-4140.
The drinking water you receive in the Tumwater system comes entirely from groundwater aquifers pumped from numerous wells throughout the City.
- Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. The EPA and WA Department of Health sets the standards for tap water provided by the City of Tumwater; the Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water standards based on EPA's tap water standards. Bottled water and tap water are both safe to drink if they meet these standards, although people with severely compromised immune systems and children may have special needs. Bottled water costs much more than tap water on a per gallon basis. Bottled water is valuable in emergency situations (such as floods and earthquakes), and high quality bottled water may be a desirable option for people with weakened immune systems. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying.
- If you have your own well, you are responsible for making sure that your water is safe to drink. Private Wells should be tested annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test more frequently for other contaminants, such as radon or pesticides, if you suspect a problem. You can help protect your water supply by carefully managing activities near your water source. If you have specific questions, Water Resources staff may be able to assist you in finding resources to answer your questions. Call (360) 754-4140.
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. People with severely compromised immune systems, such as people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, people who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. EPA/Centers for Disease Control Guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection from Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants offer more detailed advice. See Water Quality Reports for testing results of the City water supply. Call (360) 754-4140 for more information.
I'm worried about a specific drinking water contaminant [lead, Cryptosporidium, nitrate, radon, etc.]. What should I know?
Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. As long as they occur below federal and state standards, they don't pose a significant health threat, although people with severely compromised immune systems and children may have special needs. For more information about a specific contaminant, see EPA's fact sheets on drinking water contaminants, which have more detailed information on every contaminant EPA currently sets standards for and those EPA is considering setting standards for.
- Even when water meets our state and federal standards, it may still taste or smell a bit off or have a cloudy appearance. While these aesthetic concerns are not regulated, we would still like to know if they occur. Some problems may be resolved by examining the plumbing in your home, especially in older developments. Due to its size, the City needs to disinfect the water in order to eliminate bacterial contamination. The City is currently using chlorine, which may slightly affect the taste of the water at times. Common complaints about water aesthetics include temporary cloudiness (typically caused by air bubbles) or chlorine taste (which can be improved by using a filter or letting the water stand exposed to the air).
- Under the authority of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA sets standards for more than 100 potential contaminants in drinking water. For each of these contaminants, EPA sets a legal limit, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), or requires a certain treatment. Water that meets these standards is safe to drink, although people with severely compromised immune systems and children may have special needs. For a more detailed description, read about how standards are set or about EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water at www.epa.gov/safewater.
If your home is served by the City, get a copy of your annual water quality report before you test your water. This report will tell you if and what contaminants have been found in your drinking water and at what level. After you've read this report, you may wish to test for specific contaminants (such as lead) that can vary from house to house, or any other contaminant you're concerned about.
The City does not test individual homes, and cannot recommend specific laboratories to test your drinking water, but can provide a list of certified laboratories upon request. Depending on how many contaminants you may wish to test for, a water test can cost from $25 to hundreds of dollars. Contact the Thurston County Public Health & Social Services at (360) 867-2500 (TDD 1-800-658-6384).
The City publishes an annual drinking water quality report. This report will tell consumers what contaminants have been detected in the drinking water over the previous year, how these detection levels compare to drinking water standards, and where the water comes from. The reports are provided annually before July 1, and, in most cases, are mailed directly to your home. Contact Water Resources, (360) 754-4140 if you have not received a copy, or the online version can be found at Water Quality Report.
City staff will make every effort to notify you by newspaper, mail, radio, e-Notifications or hand-delivery if your water doesn't meet EPA or state standards or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. The notice will describe any precautions you need to take, such as boiling your water. If you ever receive such a notice, READ THE NOTICE CAREFULLY - it will contain all the information you need to know about the issue and any actions you will need to take.
- Yes. The City of Tumwater is proud to supply some of the cleanest and best-tasting water. The water consistently meets, and in most cases, exceeds the EPA's standards for tap water quality. Every year, the City publishes an annual water quality report (sometimes called a consumer confidence report), which provides our customers with general information on water quality and various programs the Utility has to offer.
As a City water customer, you are required to keep your water meter clear and accessible for reading and maintenance purposes. This includes those meters located in utility easements. Contact Utility Service if you need information on where to find your meter.
- Turn off all water in and outside of your house. Do not turn off the master valve.
- Record the reading on your meter.
- Do not use any water in your home for 2 hours.
- Recheck the meter every 20 minutes for 2 hours. The reading should be identical to the reading taken earlier. If it is higher, you have a leak. It is your responsibility to have it repaired.
Note: Continuously running toilets can be a silent culprit. Check the overflow pipes in the toilet tanks to be sure water isn't draining. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank, don't flush and check the bowl in about 15 minutes. If any of the coloring appears in the bowl, you probably have leaking water. Visit Water Leaks for more information.
You can easily check for an error in the meter reading used to calculate your bill. Simply read you water meter to see if the reading if higher or lower than the reading on your bill. If it is lower, call Customer Service immediately and we will make the necessary adjustments. If the reading is higher, you should check for a leak in your house plumbing or service line. Call Utility Billing at (360) 754-4133 for assistance or Water Leaks for more information.
No. A City employee is required to disconnect and reconnect services at the water meter. The water meter is the property of the City and damages to the meter could be charged to you. Call the Tumwater Public Works Operations & Maintenance at (360) 754-4150.