September 26, 2011
Guest Post by Steve Willis: "It's the water"
Very early one Sunday morning, I won't say exactly where or when, I was enjoying a cup of coffee in an establishment in one of the counties that borders us here in Grays Harbor. Hint, it is on the Roman Road known as the I-5 corridor. The only other customer was a clean-cut kid sitting with a laptop and headphones. I'm guessing he was 17 or 18.
Now that I am entering the world of senior citizenship, I find I have become an invisible man. Either that, or the folks who are two or three generations after me do not have any sense of privacy. So I get to overhear interesting conversations whether I want to or not.
A slightly older young man (like early 20 something) entered the scene, and apparently these two were acquainted. When they first began to talk I thought they were in the theater business since the discussion centered on how packed the houses were, choice of music, technology of presentation, marketing, etc. But no. It turned out they were in the religion business. A fundamentalist protestant sect, to be exact.
But my ears really perked up when the kid mentioned he was working on "the McCleary campus" of a church that is headquartered in Olympia. He described the unique challenges of this particular congregation in a professional way, without denigrating any personalities. Actually I was impressed with how mature he was for his age. But when the other fellow asked him if McCleary was a desirable place to live, I found myself feeling defensive about my town when he answered.
McCleary, according to him, is "horrible." "I wouldn't live there to save my life," he said. The kid opined he'd even prefer to live in Shelton than McCleary, in a way that made me think Shelton was only one rung higher from the bottom of Dante's Inferno-- a place where McC apparently sits.
The older kid, who was clearly gathering data in this one-sided exchange, pressed for details, and the younger guy gave a surprising answer.
It was the water.
Normally I speak up and stand beside my town when it is attacked by those who do not know us. But this time I couldn't really say anything.
The kid was right.
About the water.
The fact that McCleary's water can smell like a sewer right out of the tap has been an unpleasant reality here ever since I can remember as a homeowner in this town since 1986. At first it seemed to be isolated to particular places, like the Methodist Church, or folks who live at the end of streets, but it has
spread. My current house, which I have lived in since 1994, had great water until a few months ago. Now when I run the kitchen faucet it smells like rotten eggs. I even had a plumber come to check it out and spent money to have my sink vent replaced. It made no difference. The smell comes out of the faucet.
A couple decades ago I served a term as a member of McCleary's Land Planning Commission. At that time we didn't really know the natural boundaries of the Wildcat Creek Aquifer. Even though those of us in city limits are on a sewer line, the bordering county streets were on septic and we suspected many of those tanks were leaking into the water supply and contributing to the sulfurous smell.
To make matters even more complicated and a bit frightening, I attended a City Council meeting about 15 years ago where it was revealed some of the older city water pipes were lined with asbestos. While some of the Council members were claiming "asbestos didn't hurt nobody," out of town observers from the Real World sitting near me were shaking their heads in pity and muttering something about a bunch of "hicks."
I don't know if the asbestos thing contributes to the smell or not, but it can't be good in any case.
So there you have it. In the words of the old Olympia Beer slogan, "It's the water" that hurts McCleary.
I am aware great progress has been made in studying our water problem, so I am hopeful we will all see positive results soon in coming up with a remedy. In the meantime, our smelly aqua reputation is spreading and becoming an unfortunate defining feature to the outside world. Getting rid of the water smell and
then marketing that solution after the deed is done needs to be a high priority for McCleary public officials.