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Many Kitsap streams see improvement in vitality
The Kitsap County Health District has released its 2008 water quality monitoring report showing significant improvements in stream water quality over the past year.
Efforts by the district to educate the public and track contaminants in Kitsap waters have led to the removal of three streams from a public health advisory list and a steep increase in streams with improving water quality.
"It shows that when you put work into finding problems and fixing problems you can have a positive effect on water quality," said Shawn Ultican, a water quality protection employee at the district. "The credit goes to individuals who have fixed problems on their own property, whether it's septic failures or manure from livestock. Those who fixed those problems ultimately deserve the credit."
Employees of the district have been observing contaminants around the county since 1996. The latest report takes into account the health of 58 streams in the region. Currently, there are only three of those streams with health advisories, that is down sharply since 2007 when 11 streams had health advisories.
"There has definitely been some improvements," said Stuart Whitford, the district's water quality program manager. "A big highlight is Phinney Creek in East Bremerton. It was so contaminated a few years ago we had signs warning children about playing in it."
In 2005, Phinney Creek had an annual fecal coliform geometric mean (an average of all data sets collected) of 1,005. In 2007 it was 992, and in 2008 it dropped to 290.
Another bright spot is the reopening of Yukon Harbor to commercial shellfish harvesting. Those waters had been closed since 2001 due to contamination.
Only one stream, Lofall Creek, had a significant worsening trend over time. Since Phinney Creek improved so much, Lofall Creek now has the worst bacteria levels in Kitsap County with an annual fecal coliform average of 360.
Pollution comes from a wide range of sources including livestock manure, sediment-loaded storm-water runoff, spilled contaminants and failing septic systems.
Many of the streams the Health District monitors are relatively small, which makes them more susceptible to these types of pollution, district officials said. When those pollutants leach down stream they can cause sickness in humans who come in contact with the contaminated water either physically or by way of shellfish.
"Our primary goal is to prevent people from getting sick," Ultican said. "We are looking at contact with surface water, lakes or streams or harvesting shellfish. All have the potential to spread disease or illness."
The announcement comes as the district also released its 2009 Pollution Identification and Correction program priorities list.
PIC utilizes “door-to-door” survey processes, public education, and intensive water quality monitoring to locate pollution sources. Once located, pollution sources are generally corrected voluntarily by the property owners.
A map of PIC priorities can be found below.
The Health District did not include Bainbridge Island in its water quality monitoring report because the city liaises with the Health employees on its own monitoring program.
A report released in October 2008 showed the city's efforts to trace contaminants in storm-water runoff had proven effective, identifying numerous areas along eight miles of shoreline that had some kinds of fecal contamination.
Of 584 samples that were collected, more than 12 percent had rates of fecal coliform or E. coli bacteria contamination that exceeded health-code regulations. Over 41 percent of contaminated samples were found between the intersection of Crystal Springs Road and Baker Hill Road up to the mouth of Fletcher Bay on the island’s west side.
Those areas have been targeted in the 2009 PIC priorities list.