What is the new and mysterious pulpy mass clogging up the works at LOTT’s treatment plant?


Something strange is floating into LOTT’s sewage treatment plant in downtown Olympia. It’s a nuisance, they say, and they’re willing to pay $1,000 to someone who tells them the source of the material.

It’s a pulpy gray-brown material that looks like, well, you can guess what it looks like. But it’s not that. Unlike the stuff that normally flows into the plant, which is mostly dissolved by the time it gets there, this substance floats.

“It is overwhelming our system,” according to Justin Boyes, LOTT’s Environmental Program Manager. “We are spending a lot of time trying to remove it, he told The JOLT today.

“We think it is wood, mainly because we are seeing some cell structures that are seen in plants,” Boyes explained. He sent along microscopic images of the material (see images with this story).

It’s not toxic

There have been “no toxic effects to the treatment process; it’s just a nuisance,” according to Joanne Lind, LOTT’s Public Communications Manager, who added that “we’re still sending quality water out to Puget Sound.”

The material started arriving during the week that started Monday, May 23.  In a statement today, LOTT provided this information:

“Laboratory analysis determined the material is some type of plant matter, possibly wood or paper pulp. It is made up of many small fibers of similar size and appearance, which could indicate wood or plant matter is being ground up and discharged into the sewer. It is likely the discharge is from an industrial or commercial facility, since the material appears only during the work week. LOTT investigated several industrial facilities and determined they are not the cause.”

Arrests?  Jail time?

Not necessarily. “We’re not looking to prosecute anyone at this time; it’s a situation of education and outreach, according to Boyes. On the other hand, “If they refuse to stop, we have enforcement remedies, if necessary,” he added.

If you have information about the source of this material, contact LOTT at 360-528-5725, or


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • AugieH

    Perhaps the output from a commercial paper shredding service? I don't imagine it would work weekends and may have only recently started the service.

    Thursday, July 28 Report this

  • FirstOtter

    It looks to me as if someone is flushing brown paper towels, or even cardboard.

    Friday, July 29 Report this