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Warning for Thurston County lake: Stay out of it, don't drink it

A warning has been issued about Thurston County's Summit Lake.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- An emergency shutdown has been called for Thurston County's Summit Lake, which residents depend on for drinking water.

It is due to a toxic algae outbreak. Emergency water supplies are being trucked in.

"The hotline says stay out of the water and don't use it," said lake resident Darrell Drugge.


The 600 homes around the lake 15 miles west of Olympia all depend on it for drinking water since there's no water system here and wells don't work in the volcanic soil.

The Thurston County Health Department said for an unknown reason the normally occurring algae is putting out an alarming amount of anatoxin, which can cause neurological problems in people and animals and can even be fatal.

"This is the first time we've had it show up at this high level," said Art Starry, director of the environmental health division. People here are being told not to drink the water, not to bathe in the water and that no amount of filtering or boiling will kill the toxins.

"It's bad stuff," said lake resident Joni Fuchs. "I've never known anything you couldn't boil out of the water."

Everyone is being told don't go into the lake and by all means don't let pets get into the water because they're especially vulnerable to the deadly nature of this. Drugge, who has a Lab and two cats , said, "Keeping the pets inside just for that reason because my Lab loves to go in the water and wouldn't want that to happen."

An emergency community meeting is set for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the the Boy Scouts Camp Thunderbird. Health Department officials will be there to answer questions.

One question they can't answer is why is this happening this year at such astounding rates. The first test showed 350 times above the safe level. The most recent tests showed lower levels but still well above the safe range.

Some of the residents believe chemicals coming in from car washing and lawn chemicals may be to blame. "I think fertilizing has a lot to do with what's going on.," Drugge said.

Added Fuchs, "I think it's probably a wake-up call for us out at the lake."

In the meantime. the residents here will have to rely on bottled water and water being trucked in to the fire station until the toxic algae situation goes away.

"There's no telling how long things will be," Starry, with the Health Department, said. "We're hopeful it'll end soon, but we really don't know."

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