Olympia board hears 'The State of LOTT Clean Water Alliance'


Olympia's Utility Advisory Committee heard a briefing in its May 2 meeting on “The State of LOTT Clean Water Alliance.” LOTT Executive Director Matt Kennelly, P.E. gave the presentation.

What is LOTT?

LOTT Clean Water Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation providing wastewater treatment for the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater, as well as Thurston County. According to the briefing, “LOTT’s mission is to preserve and protect public health and the environment by cleaning and restoring water resources for our communities.” The utility serves 123,500 people.

A board of directors consisting of one elected official from each of the four jurisdictions oversees LOTT in monthly meetings. Currently on that board are Carolyn Cox (representing Lacey), Dani Madrone (Olympia), Leatta Dahlhoff (Tumwater), and Tye Menser (Thurston County).

Kennelly explained the way LOTT works. “Wastewater flows through city-owned sewer infrastructure to the LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s Budd Inlet Treatment Plant, where it is treated and either discharged to Budd Inlet or reclaimed for beneficial uses. The treatment plant is a critical community asset that provides advanced secondary treatment, including removal to help protect water quality in our local marine waters.”

The city of Olympia built the Budd Inlet Treatment Plant in 1952, and LOTT took over its operation in 2005. The facility treats 13 million gallons of water per day. It provides the highest level of sewage treatment on the Puget Sound, offering some of the best results in the nation and producing award-winning cleaned water, Kennelly explained. LOTT recently finished a major process upgrade on the plant.

Unique among local agencies

Kennelly also pointed out some distinctives of LOTT.  These include:

  • It is a regional utility
  • It's a non-profit corporation that functions as a public entity
  • LOTT will not consider failure as an option; it provides an essential public service
  • It is highly regulated, and accountable at multiple levels:
    • To the ratepayers
    • To the four partner jurisdictions
    • To state and federal regulators

By way of example included in the briefing, LOTT must maintain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, which is issued by the Washington Department of Ecology and authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This permit brings stringent regulatory requirements including discharge limits, treatment performance, and monitoring and reporting.

Kennelly boasted of awards the utility has won, including the Gold Award and Peak Performance Awards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies in 2022 and a 2024 National Environmental Achievement Award from the same association.

LOTT has also earned statewide industry recognition. As a top-producing utility in the state’s capital, the corporation has been in a position to give tours to state regulators from the Departments of Health and Ecology and to House representatives at the state level. Kennelly has given presentations to the state legislature and to industry peers at regional and national conferences.

Wastewater treatment past & present

Also in his presentation, Kennelly connected the history of local wastewater treatment, the state of affairs today, and a look at LOTT’s preparations for the future.

Wastewater treatment has evolved since the 1950s and the launching of Olympia’s wastewater treatment facility, he pointed out. The regulations-driven cost of service has seen some offset as the treatment has been refined to the point that the process yields reusable resources from the waste. The industry has also seen development in public health, environmental protection, education, and resource recovery.

Turning wastewater into valuable resources

Nowadays LOTT puts to good use the refuse and waste byproducts of water treatment, as well as the water itself. Bio-gas is a byproduct of the breakdown of the wastewater. Kennelly likened the process to the human stomach, breaking down the material that enters it for the body’s use. LOTT uses this gaseous byproduct to heat its boilers and its buildings, thereby putting to use a renewable resource.

Another byproduct he explained is bio-solids (particularly microbial matter that breaks down the waste matter and then dies) which sees new purpose as a soil amendment.

This image shows fully treated wastewater at LOTT's before it is discharged.
This image shows fully treated wastewater at LOTT's before it is discharged.
The reclaimed water itself has gone to numerous good uses locally in parks, irrigation, and even the stream in front of the children’s museum. Kennelly reported that 600,000 gallons per day of the repurposed water goes to water the golf course in Tumwater in summer. A park in Hawk’s Prairie is another recipient of this water.

The use of this water provides environmental benefits: it means that potable water does not have to serve these purposes, Kennelly remarked. Reclaimed water can be used for anything except drinking water, so it provides an alternative source of water for these other purposes, preserving the resource of drinking water and providing a good solution for drought-related water shortages.

A LOTT of education

LOTT’s education program is another component of the agency’s services presented in the briefing. It primarily provides this education through its WET (“Water, Education, and Technology”) Science Center, which provides school field trips, offerings for walk-in visitors, and education programs.

During the 2023-24 school year, 2,618 students visited on field trips. WET welcomed 8,519 walk-in visitors in 2023.

Looking out for community & environment

Looking from the present vantage point toward the future of the utility, Kennelly spoke of the “Wastewater utility of the future, today.” While continuing to manage the cost of service and public health factors, LOTT also provides public services, including community support and climate resilience.

Community support, he itemized, includes measures such as connection fee rebates (a 50% rebate for either converting from septic to sewer or for low income housing), sanitation resources (porta-potties and RV pump-outs), wastewater epidemiology -- testing for various diseases, and involvement in a coalition for other water quality projects.

Climate resilience measures include decreasing annual carbon emissions. LOTT, the largest power consumer in Thurston County, has seen an 18% decrease in emissions between 2015 and 2023 and a per capita decrease of 32%, Kennelly reported. A recent upgrade of LOTT’s facilities -- a $30 million project partially funded by a $1.1 million conservation grant from PSE -- has resulted in energy savings of 2.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.

Likewise, Project Carbon Footprint Reduction has resulted in savings of 2,458,000 kWh/yr, equivalent to 1,143 tons of CO2. To put that number in perspective, the presentation noted that it equals approximately 18,900 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, 222 homes’ electricity per year, or 2.93 million miles driven by an average gasoline powered passenger vehicle.

Adding solar panels on the roof of an older building at LOTT in an upcoming project will provide enough energy to power the building fully on sunny days, with up to 196,000 kWh per year produced. Moving forward, studies have indicated that inasmuch as possible, it is most cost effective to update existing buildings rather than building new ones, Kennelly told the committee.

LOTT carries on this work with a budget in 2023-24 of $89.3 million in capital and debt service (73%), and an operating budget of $32.4 million (27%). Monthly service fees rates for customers -- $66.97 in the City of Olympia -- are lower than the regional average  of $81.47 and yet remain the highest rated wastewater treatment on Puget Sound, Kennelly noted.

For more information about LOTT, visit,, or call (360) 664-2333.  


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