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Don't cut water quality testing | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
At the Bainbridge City Council meeting of Oct. 24, Councilman David Ward suggested that the recently awarded contract for support services for the city’s Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program be terminated for 2013 and subsequent years.
This work is a support contract for the city program that recently produced the State of the Island’s Waters report. This report presented evidence that of the 16 streams that had been monitored on the Island; the only one that met state water quality standards for bacteria was the reference watershed of Cooper Creek, which is the least developed watershed on the Island.
Since the total budget for this program is only around $180,000 per year, by terminating this on-call contract, which is budgeted for approximately $78,000 in 2013, the council will be cutting the overall budget for the Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program by approximately 40 percent.
The city’s Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program is supported by the efforts of several volunteers who work for no pay because they feel that this data is important to the Island's future. The on-call support contract that Councilman Ward wants to cut is for flow and water quality and stream bed sampling during periods when city staff and volunteers are not available. I doubt whether the majority of Islanders favor reducing to this degree support for a program that has uncovered significant evidence of pollution on Bainbridge Island.
Water quality protection is a highly valued goal of the Bainbridge Island community. The second-listed of the overriding goals of the Bainbridge Comprehensive Plan is to “Protect fragile water resources." We cannot know if these resources are being protected without measuring the flow and quality of our streams.
Flow and water quality monitoring of the Springbrook Creek watershed is required as part of a state Department of Ecology TMDL or “Total Maximum Daily Load” study for Sinclair and Dyes Inlets. So this work, at least, will need to continue. Remaining monitoring, while not strictly required by state mandates, is crucially important to help understand why so many of Bainbridge’s streams are polluted and to find the causes.
It has been suggested that only the flow monitoring part of this support contract be terminated.
I urge the council to keep the entire amount of the contract; however, since flow monitoring together with water quality sampling is crucial for the next step of the work in the Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program. The reason for the flow monitoring is to determine the mass rate of pollutants that are being discharged from a stream to Puget Sound. The load that is referenced in the acronym TMDL is the product of the flow in the stream times the pollutant concentration. The concentration is the “quality” part of the load.
Without flow, the mass rate of pollutants (the load) cannot be determined.
I hope this helps to clarify why both flow and water quality monitoring are so important for the Island and hope that the council can keep funding on-call support for the Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program for 2013 and consider funding for future years based on the demonstrated results of the work.