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Department of Ecology takes lead in Fort Ward sewage cleanup

Warning signs sit at the entrances to the park at Blakely Harbor. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Warning signs sit at the entrances to the park at Blakely Harbor.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

The Department of Ecology has taken the lead in the cleanup efforts for the Fort Ward sewage spill.

Approximately 4,000 gallons of digestive sludge that spilled from the Fort Ward sewage treatment facility is contained within the adjacent wetlands. The sludge is being retained in the wetland area by a couple of natural barriers, one of which has been reenforced with straw bails, according to Stuart Whitford from the Kitsap Public Health District.

An estimated 6,000 gallons of sludge was recovered on the treatment facility’s site and has since been cleaned up, but the adjacent wetlands have been effected and removal of the sludge is currently underway.

High-powered vacuums are being used to remove the material from the wetlands.

The spilled sludge is mostly water with approximately

1 percent solids, according to the Department of Ecology.

Property owners who may be effected have been notified by the health district through door hangers left at homes.

“We know that the sludge is active and it has a very high count of indicator bacteria,” Whitford said.

Indicator bacteria is bacteria such as E. coli or fecal coliform. Presence of the bacteria would likely denote the further presence of other dangerous pathogens that could be harmful to human health.

Notices warning the public about nearby Tani Creek and Blakely Harbor since the spill are only “advisory in nature.”

At this time, the creek that leads to the harbor shows no impact from the spill, however the public should still practice caution around the area’s waters, Whitford said.

The Department of Ecology also said that the creek and harbor show no signs of the bacteria present in the wetlands, but officials are still recommending that people avoid contact with the water.

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