Sources of Bacterial Pollution

What are Fecal Bacteria and Why Should I Care?

Although there are many types of water pollutants, Whatcom County focuses on fecal bacteria as the primary indicator of surface water quality.  Fecal bacteria are found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and their presence in creeks and marine waters indicates potential disease-causing germs and parasites in the water.  People are exposed to these germs and parasites through direct water contact such as swimming, wading, or eating shellfish from waters with high fecal bacteria levels.



Sources of Fecal Bacteria Pollution in Whatcom County

The primary cause of fecal bacteria pollution in Whatcom County’s creeks and marine waters is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many smaller sources added together, rather than a few large sources.

The key potential sources of fecal bacteria are (1) animal waste from agricultural operations, domestic pets, waterfowl, and urban wildlife, and (2) human sewage from failing on-site sewage systems (septics), leaking sewers, or cross-connections.  Basically, think poop! The potential contribution of deteriorating wood waste and other sources continue to be evaluated.

What Can I Do?

It isn’t just our neighbor’s problem. We can all play a role in keeping fecal bacteria out of our community waterways! Finding and Fixing Problems helps identify typical bacteria sources and actions we can each take to reduce fecal bacteria reaching our waterways. Because nonpoint pollution comes from many small sources (often common activities), there are also small steps we can each take to make a difference!
The Watershed Improvement DistrictsWhatcom Conservation District and the County are working cooperatively to address these water quality issues through a locally-driven and voluntary program.