A Message From Commissioner Bacon

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Island County

District 1 News - August 12, 2022

Coupeville Wharf

Coupeville Wharf. Image submitted by Michael Neff

Message from Commissioner Bacon

It’s another beautiful day on Whidbey! I think I’ll take a walk after I finish writing this. Thank you for reading my newsletter for the 32nd week of 2022.

  • Solid Waste Text Updates PHONE NUMBER CHANGE: I’ve been making a big deal in these newsletters that now we have texting capabilities in Solid Waste so you can be informed if there is a shut-down due to lack of containers or if some other emergency occurs that impacts our Solid Waste functions—AND THEN I LEARNED YESTERDAY THAT THE PHONE NUMBER TO GET THESE UPDATES HAS BEEN CHANGED! To sign up with the NEW NUMBER, send a text to 833-954-3773, giving the message ICSOLIDWASTE. You’ll get a text back saying you’re now signed up. It looks like people who signed up using the old number need to sign up again. (I know! Grr!)
  • And since I’m baring our flaws to you today, I’ll give you one more: I learned this week that one of the links I’ve been giving you for free COVID tests was also wrong (thank you, Sheryl Madden!). To obtain a rapid home test kit you can call the Island County COVID Response Call Center at 360-678-2301; or to have free test kits mailed to your home, go online to https://sayyescovidhometest.org/  or https://www.covid.gov/ This week’s COVID report summarizes several recent changes to the CDC and DOH guidance: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Health/COVID%20Manager%20Report%20Library/BOCC%20Brief%208-12-2022.pdf  The changes include such things as how long to isolate after you test positive, and how many days to wear a mask if you’re a close contact of someone with COVID. 
  • Regular Agenda: Tuesday was another pretty short summer Board meeting—the first 20 minutes was our regular monthly welcoming of new employees and celebration of service awards (Congratulations to Markell Egelston for 25 years with Island County!). You can watch the meeting at https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/49811d18-c4e6-448d-b856-b906cd34702f
    • Resolution passed this week: C-50-22 (regular session), Amending a County Road project designated as Main Street & Harbor Avenue Roundabout, Whidbey Island. We spent a few minutes talking about the proposed Freeland roundabout at Main Street and Harbor Avenue, which you can watch at mark 21:38 in the above link. The county conducts a collision evaluation every year. This intersection apparently sees many collisions, a problem which should be alleviated if we replace the four-way stop with a compact roundabout. What we approved this week was funding the feasibility and preliminary engineering design. We have not yet approved building the actual roundabout.
    • You can find the agenda for next Tuesday’s very short regular Board of Island County Commissioners meeting, including how to attend virtually, here: https://media.avcaptureall.cloud/meeting/700f0653-c4b2-4674-8785-46de554c6c11
  • The proposed Freeland roundabout: Public Works is planning a Public Open House this fall to discuss this project. I will certainly give you information about how and where to attend, when I know more about it.
  • Work Session: We did not hold a work session this week. But we will make up for all these short August meetings next Wednesday with the longest work session of the year so far, scheduled to last from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. with a 257-page agenda. You can find the agenda for next Wednesday’s very long work session, including how to listen in, here: https://www.islandcountywa.gov/Commissioners/worksessions/2022/08172022%20Agenda.pdf
  • As I’ve said here before, many citizens have commented to me that they don’t understand why we’d build a roundabout in the middle of Freeland when the truly dangerous place we need a roundabout, or a traffic light is at the intersection of Highway 525 and Bush Point/Honeymoon Bay roads. Unfortunately, although the county has authority to build roundabouts inside Freeland, we don’t have the authority to do so on the state highway. I raised concern about this intersection again this week with WSDOT, and this was their response:                                                                                                                                                                            a major improvement at this location will remain an area of interest in our WSDOT planning with Island County. But to be clear, unfortunately there is so little funding for safety improvements that it is not likely that funding will come through WSDOT for this location.  With our budget, our priorities are on Maintenance/Preservation of our highways, bridges, and ferries, and removing barriers to Fish Passage (highway culvert replacements)…                 
    • My response back to them was kind of hostile, referencing the inappropriateness of prioritizing funding to fish passages over funding for critical highway safety improvements (and yes, I copied our legislators). Look, I’m one of your environmental commissioners. I’m all about the fish. But if we must choose between fish passages and an intersection where we know someone else will die if we don’t fix this…well, I think that should be an easy choice for the state to make. And so far, they’re making the wrong one.
  • Besides chairing this week’s regular Board meeting and going over issues with my intern (welcome, Jackson Murphy—I’m so glad you’ve joined us!) I attended 16 meetings with either citizens or staff this week to discuss a wide gamut of county issues. Some meetings included both citizens and staff. The one I want to share with you was a meeting to discuss PFAS in our drinking water, with John Lovie, president of the Whidbey Island Water Systems Associations; Keith Higman, Island County Public Health Director; and Heather Korteum, Island County Environmental Health Manager.
    • On June 15th the EPA announced new Lifetime Health Advisories (LHAs) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) which in some cases are over 10,000 times lower than the LHA numbers we have been working with in the water systems and private wells around the Navy facilities on Whidbey Island. This means that levels we thought were safe are now deemed to be above the health advisory limits.
    • In the wake of the discovery of PFAS around our Navy facilities and elsewhere in the state, the State Department of Health Office of Drinking Water (ODW) offered voluntary testing to Group A water systems. In Island County, King Water and Water and Wastewater Services volunteered the systems they manage, and ODW sampled most of these. These results are now in. Of the 122 systems sampled in Island County, 12, or about 10%, show detections. Of these twelve, three exceeded the new LHAs and one exceeded the old LHAs and was above the State Action Limits (SALs). Many water systems in Island County were not tested, so we should expect there may be other water systems exceeding the new advisory limits for lifetime exposure to PFAS.
    • PFAS are not limited to areas around the Navy. Most PFAS in drinking water are considered to come from firefighting foam.
    • Mandatory testing of Group A water systems will begin to roll-out in Washington in January 2023. They are still waiting for EPA rule-making. NOTE: Group A water systems are defined as those which have 15 or more service connections or serve 25 or more people 60 or more days per year.
    • Ultimately, resolution of the problem will need to be addressed at each water system.
    • But in the meantime, if you’re concerned about your drinking water at your home, I encourage you to identify at least one fixture in your house to designate for drinking water and install an under-the-counter or a countertop reverse osmosis system. NOTE: I googled “reverse osmosis systems”, and many of the products that showed up are not, in fact, reverse osmosis systems. I guess many water filter products that are not reverse osmosis will include the term “reverse osmosis” in their hypertext so that they pop up in searches. But a regular (cheap) water filter system will not capture PFAS. So pay attention to make sure what you buy will handle these substances. For assistance in finding the right product, try here: https://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/articles/pfoa-pfos-drinking-water
    • For more information: https://sboh.wa.gov/news/drinking-water-and-pfas-rule-update, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html and https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/drinking-water.
    • I will of course keep you informed as I know more. But one thing we can all do now: let the state legislature know you want them to make money available for testing for Group B and private wells too, not just for Group A wells. Not all Island County residents get their water from big water systems. Well testing costs around $600 per well.
  • For people who enjoy watching the birds or walking the dike at Deer Lagoon: the county will do its annual mowing of the dike trail this month. We will be extra careful so that we don’t experience the problems we had last year when we overmowed in the spring during nesting time. I am grateful for the collaboration we’ve had since then between the Audubon Society, Island County Department of Natural Resources, and Island County Public Works, to ensure that the needs of wildlife are considered when we plan our human activities.
  • Reminder: 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline: The United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline went live last month. It’s designed to be as easy to remember and use as 911, but instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters or paramedics, 988 will connect callers with trained mental health counsellors.
  • Monday Tea with Melanie usually happens at 3 pm at Crabby Coffee in Freeland in the WiFire Community Space, 1651 E Main St, Freeland.
    • BUT: I will not be available at the WireFire this Monday the 15th , Monday the 29th , or Monday Sept 5th. The 15th is the initial meeting of the canvassing board that will certify the results of the election that was held this month. I will be on vacation with my grandson on the 29th. And the 5th is a holiday.




“In the summertime, when the weather is hot, you can reach right up and touch the  sky.”                  --Mungo Jerry (this was my best friend’s favorite song, back in high school)