Bellingham, WA - This fall and winter, Whatcom Clean Water Program partners are asking local community members to take steps to keep our waterways clean and community healthy. As rains return following a dry summer, pollutants are washed off hard surfaces and dry soils into our waterways. During fall and winter rain events, local clean water partners measure high fecal bacteria levels in our creeks and Portage Bay shellfish growing area. 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.
The recent increases in bacteria levels have resulted in more seasonal harvesting restrictions and have set-back hard-won efforts over the past several years to improve water quality and recover year-round shellfish harvest. Community-wide action is needed now to reverse these trends. As emphasized by Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu, saying "Water quality is important not just for our own health but also for the health of every living creature on earth."
Fecal bacteria are present in the feces (poop) of warm-blooded animals including humans. Potential sources include livestock and other farm animals, dogs, wildlife, septic and sewage systems. When high bacteria levels get in our waterways it increases the risk of people getting sick from contacting contaminated water. When too much bacteria are measured in the water, beaches and shellfish beds can be closed.
The good news is that community efforts in the past have succeeded in improving water quality. We know small steps by everyone can make a big positive difference. Picking up pet poop (every time), inspecting your septic systems to prevent costly and messy failures, keeping farm animals off wet pastures, and managing manure responsibly are just some of the actions that help. There are ways for everyone to be a part of the solution. For more complete resource information check out these fall tips.
Whatcom Clean Water Program agencies coordinate with citizen groups, agriculture and shellfish advisory boards, watershed improvement districts, local jurisdictions, and Canada partners to offer residents technical and financial help to fix potential pollution sources. City of Ferndale Greg Hansen underscores the vital role water plays in our local wellbeing stating “Water is life! The health and prosperity of Ferndale is forever entwined with the Nooksack River and we must protect it if we are to thrive.”.
Grants through the Environmental Protection Agency National Estuary Program have supplemented local and state support for Whatcom’s pollution identification and correction program.
Everyone should be able to safely enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, crabbing, and shellfish harvesting in Whatcom County. The community has met this challenge before, and we can do it again. Working together, we can protect the health of our families and allow our community to thrive.
“Clean water is an integral part of our community, from drinking water to recreational opportunities. We also recognize that clean water is an important element of preserving our strong regional farming heritage and that fish and wildlife depend on it from the Nooksack River tributaries all the way to the Bay. At the City of Lynden, we are committed to being good stewards of this vital resource.” Scott Korthuis - Mayor, City of Lynden.
On behalf of the following Whatcom Clean Water Program partners:
This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement PC-01J18001-6 to the Washington State Department of Health. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.