Whatcom County Public Works has recently received multiple inquiries about Terrell Creek. The sight and smell of the water may seem like cause for concern; however, the conditions are actually a natural seasonal occurrence caused by a lack of rain in the late summer/early fall. Bacterial and algal growth occurs when water levels are low, slow-moving, warm, and nutrient-rich. Every summer, there is also a buildup of decaying organic matter like seaweed in Birch Bay and lower Terrell Creek. These natural conditions generate strong sulfur smells, surface films, and unusual colors in the creek. The extent and severity of the smell and murkiness varies annually, and this year has been particularly noticeable. The issues will resolve, and the creek will return to its typical look and smell once the fall rains start flushing out the waterways.
We have been responding to citizen reports of unusual sheens, smells, and colors in Terrell Creek over the past few months. Staff have not found any conditions to date that are cause for concern; however, keeping kids and pets out of the water is still a good idea until it’s no longer stagnant and stinky.
The conditions described above do not need to be reported; however, there are a few observations that are important to report:
Here are some additional resources and tips: