Sep. 21, 2015 Padilla Bay basin pollution prompts cleanup effort

Ecology wants to hear residents; views on high bacteria levels

BAY VIEW – Padilla Bay and the creeks and streams that empty into it have bacterial pollution that’s high enough to require a state cleanup plan. The Washington Department of Ecology will write one, but wants to hear from area residents before moving forward.

Ecology invites people to a public meeting on Oct. 1 at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Breazeale Interpretive Center, located at the 10441 Bayview-Edison Road. An open house will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m. with a question, answer and discussion session.

“Clean water solutions start with public input and involvement,” said Danielle DeVoe, an Ecology water quality planner with Skagit County roots. “I’m from Sedro-Woolley, and this area is like part of my own back yard. I’m looking forward to hearing what people have to say.”

The plan will gather information from existing monitoring and studies, and Ecology may fund additional research to help understand area waterways and their sources of bacteria pollution.

The bacteria causing the issues in Padilla Bay belong to a class called fecal coliform, which originate in the digestive systems of people and warm-blooded animals. Germs from other diseases accompany fecal coliform, and the water quality standards for this pollutant are based on protecting public health.

Potential sources of the bacteria include:

· Septic systems that don’t function properly.

· Manure from large or small animals kept too close to the water or on slopes that face ditches or streams.

· Agricultural practices that allow manure to get into waterways.

· Increased animal waste from feeding wildlife.

State and federal clean water laws require cleanup plans for water bodies with persistently high pollution levels. Ecology’s planning process includes close cooperation with Skagit County, tribal governments, organizations involved in the area, as well as individual residents.

Padilla bay, with its broad tidelands and shallow beaches, is a popular attraction for recreation, environmental study and nature watching. The national reserve encompasses the entire bay. High bacteria levels have prompted public swimming area and recreational shellfish closures. Meeting the state’s water quality standards for bacteria would avoid the need for such restrictions.