South Sound Science: “Using data to improve environmental health”

Marianne Seifert, Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, speaks on:

Newly implemented environmental health indicators for shellfish growing area pollutants, swimming beach advisories, mercury and PCBs in salmon, and stream flow, precipitation and aquifer levels.

Marianne moved down from the stage is moving around the room:

In addition to talking to scientists, in deciding what to measure as environmental indicators in Pierce County, they also talked to policy makers. It is important to track indicators that will actually gets peoples’ attention.

They also wanted to make their eventual report easy for people to digest and make the connection between land, water and air obvious.

Economic impacts were important to note because “not all people are motivated by health, but practically everyone is motivated by economics.”

Not just personal actions, but also policy decisions that would encourage good land use and recycling, for example.

One of the things that Charlene talked about that really was interesting to Marianne is “why are we doing this.” For scientists it may be as easy as “we’re scientists, this is what we do.” But, for most people, that isn’t enough.

That is what the indicators report is about, to motivate people to action. After the report is done in June, they will be holding a series of forums in September.

They will also be trying to fill in data gaps, so she asks the people in the room to help out, even if they are outside Pierce County. The scientists in the room know what is going on out there, so they can help out.

At the forums, they’ll also start deciding what the community values are for restoring the ec0-system.


Can you talk about no change as being as important as trends? How does one interpret no change?

Marianne: Think about what causes change or no change. For example, population growth. There is an asumption with population change, that everything should be getting worse.

What are the things, policy decisions for example, that are preventing things from getting worse? What are the assumptions that make us think that things should get worse?

What are the top 3 environmental health issues in South Puget Sound?

Outdoor air quality is a big issue. We’re (at the county health department) not doing much about it. We’d like to do more, but because of funding problems we can’t.

Transportation is another issue. It will take large scale policy decisions being made. It will involve everyone and it impacts so many things like air quality and stormwater runoff. Also a lot of heart disease.

And, transportation related to stormwater.