The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued a sewage spill health advisory Monday for Lakewood’s Waughop Lake.
The advisory comes more than a month after raw sewage was spotted in the lake by a construction crew building a trail around the 30-acre lake in Fort Steilacoom Park.
“Something didn’t look right in the water,” said Mary Dodsworth, Lakewood’s director of Parks, Recreation and community services.
A worker saw “solid material” floating in the lake and reported it to the city, Dodsworth said.
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A city stormwater inspector confirmed the discharge as sewage and the city immediately notified the state, local health department and neighboring Pierce College. Stormwater pipes from the college feed the kettle lake.
The source of the contamination is unknown, said Jim Taylor, Pierce College’s director of facilities.
“We’re trying to aggressively find this thing,” he said Monday.
The assumption is a pipe that should connect to a sewer line is connected to a stormwater line, causing the sewage to discharge into the lake.
The discharge is not constant, making it even harder to pinpoint, Taylor said.
There is a chance someone is dumping a holding tank from a recreational vehicle, or something similar, into the college’s stormwater drains, but Taylor says that is unlikely.
“We have not seen evidence of illegal dumping,” he said. “I can’t rule it out.”
Despite finding the sewage more than a month ago, the health advisory was issued Monday. That’s because, until recently, the lake was closed to the public while crews built the path around it.
The cold weather halted that work, Dodsworth said, resulting in the path reopening until warmer weather returns and construction can finish.
Health advisories already exist at the lake because of its toxic algae blooms. The sewage spill warnings will be posted to reinforce that people and pets should avoid contact with the water.