Water Quality Program

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The rain has arrived...

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.

Why is it a problem
Click here for tips on how you can help prevent pollution closures. We have tips for farms, septic systems, pet waste, boats and RVs, and urban wildlife to help you find a way to contribute to the solution.

Pollution, Identification and Correction (PIC) Program

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. 

Why do we Care About 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.

What is the Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) Program?

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.

Recent Accomplishments

Congratulations Whatcom County!  In 2019, community actions led to improved water quality and two significant shellfish bed reopenings. 

  • Spring harvest restrictions were removed from 800 acres of tribal shellfish beds in Portage Bay.
  • 765 acres of shellfish beds in Drayton Harbor were upgraded to year-round harvest.
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

Contact Us

Gary Stoyka

Natural Resources Program Manager

Erika Douglas

Senior Planner

Email the PIC Program

Water & Natural Resources

322 N. Commercial Street, 2nd floor

Bellingham, WA 98225

Phone: 360.778.6230

Public Works Department

Phone: 360-778-6200

Fax: 360-778-6201


Monday - Friday

8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Closed Legal Holidays

Drayton Harbor FB
Lummi Harvest
​October 2019 -  DRAYTON HARBOR IMPROVED WATER QUALITY OPENS MORE AREA TO SHELLFISH HARVEST - Click here to view the full press release.
April 2019 - Spring Harvest Restrictions Lifted in Portage Bay. Click here to view the full press release.

photo provided by Lummi Natural Resources Department

report a problem 

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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.