Spring is here! Temperatures are getting warmer, wet areas are starting to dry out, and vegetation is starting to sprout and bloom.
Even with these changes, we are still in the rainy season and the frequent rainfall carries a high risk for pollution transport. During late 2020 and early 2021, high fecal bacteria levels were measured in portions of Drayton Harbor and Portage Bay shellfish growing areas. Drayton Harbor supports commercial, recreational, and tribal harvesting opportunities. Portage Bay is home to one of the Lummi Nation’s important commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence shellfish growing areas located on the Lummi Indian Reservation. These recent increases in bacteria levels may have set-back hard-won efforts over the past several years to improve water quality in the areas and recover year-round shellfish harvest. Community-wide action is needed now to reverse these trends.
These spring tips for pets, farms, septic systems, boats, RVs, and urban wildlife provide ways each of us can help protect Whatcom waterways from poo-llution. Learn about where poo-llution comes from, how it impacts our water quality, and how community action has helped in our spring press release. Thank you for being a part of our community solutions to clean water! find out
The wet season is a challenging time for protecting and improving water quality. It requires consistent efforts to address preventable sources of fecal bacteria pollution. As our soils become saturated, fecal bacteria from sources such as farm animals, pets, and wildlife are picked up by rain and carried into our ditches and creeks and downstream to our bays and harbors. Fecal bacteria pollution limits people’s ability to safely work in, play in, and harvest food from local waters.
Water Quality is a large topic. There are many different things that can influence the quality of our water. Whatcom County’s Pollution, Identification and Correction (PIC) program is focused on one particular pollution concern facing our County – fecal bacteria.
When there is too much fecal bacteria (originating from human and animal poop) in the water it indicates that there are likely disease-causing germs or parasites present that make people sick. Waterways (like ditches, creeks, and rivers) connect our land and sources of fecal bacteria to the marine waters. Shellfish beds in the marine water are closed to harvesting when bacteria levels are too high.
Whatcom County works with local, state, tribal, and federal partners in the Whatcom Clean Water Program to reduce fecal bacteria in waterways and reopen shellfish beds. Water quality data is used to identify priority areas for improvement. Community outreach and technical and financial assistance programs are offered to landowners in priority areas to help find and fix preventable sources of fecal bacteria.
Congratulations Whatcom County! In 2019, community actions led to improved water quality and two significant shellfish bed reopenings.
However, we still have more work to do. Portage Bay still remains closed to shellfish harvest from October through December. Elevated fecal bacteria results continue to be observed with large rain events. Curious about what you can do to help? Check out Finding and Fixing Problems or sign-up for our monthly E-newsletter. We are all a part of the solution!
Are you interested in helping guide this program? We have open advisory committee positions. The committees meet quarterly on the last Wednesday of the month (January, April, July, and October). You can learn more and apply here.
This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement PC-01J18001 through the Washington State Department of Health. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Washington State Department of Health, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.