By Stacee Sledge
When you think of wastewater, the first word that comes to mind probably isn’t innovation. But the LOTT Clean Water Alliance brings exactly that to its treatment and reuse of one of life’s necessary byproducts – and in doing so, has implemented an impressive array of green practices that directly benefit our local communities.
LOTT’s mission is simply put: To preserve and protect public health and the environment by cleaning and restoring water resources for our communities.
LOTT is a partnership of four local governments: the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater, and Thurston County. Considered a governmental nonprofit corporation, LOTT is run by a board of directors made up of four elected officials, one from each of the four partner governments.
The city of Olympia built its first wastewater treatment plant in the early 1950s. Almost 20 years later, Lacey contracted with Olympia and connected to the system. In 1976, Tumwater also asked to partner with Olympia. The LOTT partnership was created and eventually became a stand-alone entity in 2001, taking over the treatment plant and all facilities associated with the regional wastewater system.
Customers with LOTT sewer service see two separate wastewater charges on their utility bill: one from the city and one from LOTT. “It can seem a little confusing. Each of the cities have a wastewater utility that is responsible for the sewer lines that connect individual homes and businesses into the sewer system,” says LOTT Public Communications Manager Lisa Dennis-Perez. “LOTT is responsible for the regional wastewater system, including the sewer main lines, several pump stations, and the treatment plants.”
“LOTT’s main business is treating wastewater, but as we’re doing that, we also produce renewable resources. One of those is reclaimed water,” explains Dennis-Perez, describing just one of the ways LOTT puts green practices to practical use.
“Reclaimed water is used in our communities for irrigation of parks and some streetscapes,” says Dennis-Perez. “It’s also used to recharge groundwater and for dust suppression at the Port of Olympia.”
Biosolids are another renewable resource produced through the treatment process. These are then trucked offsite and put to use as fertilizer and soil amendment in pasturelands and forestlands.
In one of its most impressive green practices, LOTT captures methane from the wastewater treatment process and then uses it in a cogeneration system to produce both heat and electricity. The energy produced is used to heat, cool, and power its 32,500 square-foot Regional Services Center in the East Bay area of downtown Olympia.
“The cogeneration system is used to maintain a low-temperature heat loop,” says Dennis-Perez. This innovative heat loop will soon benefit the new Hands On Children’s Museum, currently under construction across the street from LOTT.
“The loop has been extended across Jefferson to the new museum, so that building will also be heated and cooled on the cogeneration system,” says Dennis-Perez.
LOTT is committed to green practices in a myriad of ways, starting with the design details of its Regional Services Center, which was completed in June 2010.
In the LEED-Platinum certified building, careful attention was paid to environmentally friendly design details, from different shades of the building’s metal façade that take advantage of optimum solar heat-gain to low-energy LED lights, use of salvaged materials, furnishings made substantially of recycled materials, and more. Reclaimed water is used for toilet flushing in the building, which helps to conserve higher quality drinking water for other uses.
LOTT also encourages sewer customers to conserve water, offering a variety of rebate programs that can help customers save on their utility bills.
LOTT’s low-temperature heat loop isn’t the only joint venture between LOTT and the new Hands On Children’s Museum. In a working partnership with the museum, the City of Olympia, and the Port of Olympia, LOTT is shaping a new look for downtown’s East Bay area by creating a public plaza that will tie the two buildings – both designed by Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle – together.
The East Bay Public Plaza is intended to revitalize the East Bay area and improve public access to the waterfront while complementing existing spaces such as Percival Landing, Port Plaza, and North Point.
“It will include a stream-like water feature using reclaimed water and many interpretive elements that focus on water and the value of clean water for everyone,” says Dennis-Perez.
Yet another partnership with the Hands On Children’s Museum is LOTT’s mini science center, focused primarily on water. LOTT’s WET Science Center, a free interpretive education center, is open to the public six days a week.
“It has all kinds of interactive activities and displays for folks to learn more about the role of water in our community, how waste water is treated, and about reclaimed water,” says Dennis-Perez.
Most of the WET Science Center displays and activities are geared toward older children, fifth grade and above, but there are some things for the younger kids to play with, so parents have a chance to look around and play and learn.
LOTT worked with the Hands On Children’s Museum while developing its WET Science Center exhibits. Knowing that the children’s museum focuses mostly on the pre-K set through about fifth grade, LOTT created its exhibits primarily for older children through adults.
“We’re hoping to create a complementary learning experience in the East Bay area between the new children’s museum, the WET Science Center, and the East Bay Public Plaza. These are unique learning spaces with a special focus on water and sustainability,” says Dennis-Perez.
LOTT Clean Water Alliance
500 Adams Street NE
Olympia WA 98501