Study identifies pollutants in harbor

Published on Thu, Apr 9, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Drayton Harbor is widely contaminated with human, bovine and avian fecal coliform, according to a pilot study recently completed by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

The study examined fecal coliform levels in six Drayton Harbor locations as well as eight locations in California Creek tributaries and found “widespread occurrences” of human and ruminant waste.

Ruminant waste was widespread in both fresh and marine water, while human waste was found in one-third of test sites in California Creek and four out of six marine shellfish growing sites tested in Drayton Harbor.

“The main point of the study was to identify key sources of bacterial pollution that affect the harbor,” said Geoff Menzies, who chairs Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District Advisory Committee and manages the Community Oyster Farm. “We wanted to see what was coming from downstream.”

Bird waste was also commonly detected in Drayton Harbor, although Menzies said little can be done to reduce waste from waterfowl and other wildlife.

Menzies said the study confirms the importance of recent efforts by Whatcom County to step-up pollution controls such as the county’s small farm livestock waste management and the septic system inspection program recently approved by the Whatcom County Council. “The study has shown there are important aspects of improving water quality in Drayton Harbor,” he said. “The bottom line is if we don’t have aggressive programs to deal with this, we’re never going to get this harbor back.”

Menzies said the Department of Ecology is conducting additional tests as part of their “Total Maximum Daily Load” study of Drayton Harbor, although results have not been published yet.