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November 12, 2009

Tacoma - Drinking water test results collected from residential wells around the LRI Landfill indicate that the area water continues to be safe to drink.

A new report from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department shows that drinking water quality near the landfill is typical of the region. The Health Department found no landfill impacts upon water quality, and that test results were consistent with testing conducted in 2006, 2007, 2008 and the spring of 2009.

During the landfill's 2006 permit re-issuance, area residents expressed concerns about potential impacts from the landfill upon drinking water. The Health Department called for the landfill operator, LRI, to fund annual drinking water studies for the duration of the permit, through 2016.

Steve Marek, Environmental Health Program Division Director, noted that testing of resident's wells is in addition to an existing network of groundwater-monitoring wells around the landfill. Those wells have been monitored quarterly since 1999 and have not shown any landfill impacts upon water quality.

Marek said that the residential sampling program complements the landfill?s monitoring well test results. ?This is one more way to provide community members with objective information about water quality around the landfill. We understand that residents often feel that having their own drinking water well tested is more meaningful than having information from monitoring wells at the landfill.?

Residents within one-half mile of the landfill can have their wells tested every year. The Health Department contacts the owners or residents of the approximately 200 eligible properties before sampling each fall and spring. Residents can opt in or out of the program at any time. Results of the well testing are shared with each resident, and summarized in a report. This report should be more useful to the community as more data is collected each year and as more residents participate.

Health Department representatives say that elevated levels of iron and manganese found in some of the wells are common across Pierce County and are not a result of landfill operations. The Washington State Department of Health confirms that iron and manganese are considered "secondary contaminants." Secondary contaminants may lead to smell, taste or odor issues, but do not pose health risks.

Water samples were taken by the Health Department?s Drinking Water Program staff and analyzed by independent certified laboratories for a variety of potential contaminants. Water samples were tested for ammonia, arsenic, chloride, nitrate, sulfate, barium, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium, vanadium, zinc, and coliform bacteria. With the exception of coliform bacteria, these potential contaminants were selected for their ability to indicate the presence or absence of landfill impacts. The Health Department chose to add the bacteria test as a precautionary measure because of the known health impacts of bacteria in drinking water. Roughly one-third of the wells examined in this study were also tested for volatile organic chemicals; none were detected.

The LRI Landfill is located at 304th Street South and State Route 161 (Meridian), between Graham and Eatonville and receives solid waste from throughout Pierce County, including Tacoma, the incorporated cities and towns, Fort Lewis and McChord AFB.

A full copy of the report and additional LRI Landfill information is located at on the health department's website (or at:

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