The Eastsound Water Supply Coordinating Committee presented the final draft of their report at a public meeting held at the Orcas Senior Center on Thursday March 25.
Vicki Heater, the Community Health staff working with the volunteer committee reviewed the committee’s origins, legal authority, and the County approval process for the final report. Graphics shared by the committee included maps of the location and density of all known wells and septic systems within the Eastsound study area. The significant number of both wells and septic systems was a surprise to some attending the presentation.
Among the most promising outcomes of this planning process is the installation of a groundwater-monitoring network. A dozen “Data Loggers” have been installed in area wells that will record water levels multiple times an hour throughout the year. This data will help the County hydrologist to map the direction water is traveling through the Eastsound aquifer and help develop a more accurate understanding of the recharge capacity of the aquifer. Committee member Paul Kamin, general manager of Eastsound Water Users Association, asserted that “Identifying the capacity of the Eastsound aquifer is important because, compared to all other options groundwater, it is the most reliable and affordable water source available to the Eastsound community.” The monitoring network also includes water quality sampling to better understand contamination risks such as rising nitrate levels. The monitoring network was funded by a study grant from the Department of Ecology.
The committee has played a leadership role in identifying concerns about rising nitrate levels in a few Eastsound wells located in areas of high-density septic systems. Elevated nitrate levels are an indicator that conditions exist for other contaminants to potentially enter the groundwater supply. The committee’s recommendations supported Eastsound Sewer District’s efforts to cost effectively develop sewer service into areas with higher densities of septic systems.
Committee Co-Chairs Bob Eagan and Gulliver Ranker reviewed the committee’s recommendations regarding the importance of considering the impact of stormwater management planning on the groundwater supply. Stormwater can be both a source for vital aquifer recharge but can also be a source of groundwater contamination. Eastsound has a varied lithology, with a mix of permeable and virtually impervious soil conditions. There remains important work to be done in developing a better understanding of specifically where aquifer recharge is occurring so stormwater plans can be developing to support recharge and reduce the risk of contamination. County Council member Gene Knapp applauded the committee’s efforts to understand the interplay between stormwater management and groundwater stores and encouraged the committee to seek opportunities to participate in ongoing stormwater management planning. Low Impact Development techniques were identified as an important option in the Stormwater Management toolbox.
The committee also recognized the unique and challenging inter-relationships between the non-profit Eastsound Water Users Association, the Eastsound Sewer District and San Juan County. All share responsibility for stewardship of the community’s water supply and each brings different assets, powers, legal obligations and expertise to the table. The committee recommended interplay between these organizations could be improved through the process of developing written agreements between the parties.
The completed “Eastsound Abbreviated Coordinated Water System Plan” will now be presented to the County’s Board of Health and will also have to be approved by the State Department of Health. The report contains a “Timely and Reasonable Service Policy” that supports the designation of Eastsound Water Users Association as the preferred purveyor in its service area. Copies of the report will be available on the County website in the near future, and can be requested from the County Health Department or EWUA.
Committee members included Bob Eagan, Gulliver Rankin, Paul Kamin, Mike Stolmeier, Perry Pruett and Lisa Byers.