Drinking Water?!?! Yikes!

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screaming     alkishower

 Alki shower… the terror that waits?

It took barely one day for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to re-open the Alki Beach shower for swimmers after it was abruptly turned off in late July. The closure, which made front page news, was the result of a miscommunication between city agencies.

But the snafu also illustrated the growing complexity of environmental regulations.

The shower water is safe enough to drink – literally. In fact, it is the same City of Seattle drinking water you get from the tap or a drinking foundation. But if that same water is used to rinse off a human being, and you let the shower water flow into Puget Sound, it violates the federal Clean Water Act.

The law requires the shower waste water to be diverted into a sewer line. That’s what prompted the temporary closure of the shower and that’s what the city will do as soon as summer ends.

Doesn’t matter that Puget Sound is saltwater. Doesn’t matter that Puget Sound is not a source of drinking water. Doesn’t matter that the shower rinses off people who were swimming in Puget Sound. Doesn’t matter that the shower water volume is teensy-tiny while Puget Sound is part of the Pacific Ocean – and, for that matter, the oceans of the world.

The shower water runoff is being treated as if the chlorine in it is “bad” – even if it isn’t.

While the city waits to connect the shower drain to a nearby sewer line, the shower water is being treated by a Vitamin C “pill” inserted in the shower drain to absorb the law-busting material. Sort of like a urinal cake.


Good old drinking water probably hasn’t scared anyone this much since Jim Morrison died in that Parisian bathtub.

There has to be a more rational approach, and, who knows? Maybe King County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Ed Murray will find one.

They are teaming up to launch a Green/Duwamish River Watershed Initiative to help find better solutions to the environmental challenges that run throughout the region that drains into Puget Sound via the lower Duwamish waterway and the site of the federal Duwamish Superfund.

More information about the new initiative will be presented at the September 23 meeting of the Manufacturing Industrial Council. Guest speakers will include Pam Elardo, Director of the King County Wastewater Treatment Division.

The MIC meeting is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle College in Room C-122 in the Gene J. Colin Education Hall. Colin Hall is at the southwest corner of the campus. Enter the parking lot at 6737 Corson Avenue. RSVP to Tory Gering at tory@seattleindustry.org.

The topic should prove timely as the state pursues new water quality requirements that will be based on how much fish people should be able to safely eat from Washington state waterways.

Like the shower dust-up, the fish consumption initiative flows from the Clean Water Act. Unlike the Alki shower, the fish issue will require a bigger solution than a connection to a nearby sewer line.