East Jefferson County Water Quality News - Summer 2018
Pierce Creek at River Mile 0.3—May 2018
Pierce Creek at River Mile 0.3—May 2018

Central Hood Canal Project: Dosewallips to Triton Cove, Southeast Jefferson County

    Since the downgrade of the shellfish beds at the mouth of the Duckabush River this past year by the State Department of Health, Jefferson County Public Health completed its first wet season evaluation with 580 sample results. Most winter water samples came back clean or with no fecal bacteria detectable. Only two shoreline sites, on Black Point (see the project Water Quality Factsheet for details), had “high hits” for bacteria contamination. Those are being investigated further. Aside from this, we focused on reviewing more than 80 potential septic code violation cases that had been identified in previous surveys for follow-up.
     Now that it is summer, monthly marine monitoring has begun to complement our river and shoreline monitoring and we are doing door-to-door surveys of septic systems where we educate homeowners about how best to maintain their systems. We are starting to see a lot more people using their properties now that the warm weather is upon us. The start of the summer vacation season has also coincided with a jump in fecal bacteria counts seen at Pierce Creek, which went from a count of 4 cfu/100 mL in April to a count of 314 by the end of May. Our focus is on trying to identify and eliminate any bacteria sources that we can find.
     The Central Hood Canal Project will continue until early 2020 and regular water quality updates will be made on the project. Visit our Central Hood Canal Project website.

NOAA Bathymetry

Quilcene-Dabob Project to be Completed by End of 2018

     The Quilcene—Dabob Pollution Identification and Correction project is in its final months and is set to conclude by December of this year. These past few months have been spent completing marine sampling for nutrients and fecal bacteria, follow-up sampling at hot spots, and education and outreach in areas with previously high bacteria levels. Over the next few months, sampling for contaminants will slow down and communicating project results will be the highest priority. A public meeting will take place in the fall to present the findings of the project.
     The graph below represents the average results for fecal coliform, phosphorous, and three forms of nitrogen (total Kjeldahl, nitrate/nitrite, and ammonia) obtained during marine sampling events in Quilcene, Dabob, and Tarboo Bays. From the data that we have collected so far it appears that each bay is fairly similar. Average nutrient levels in these bays are not elevated to levels of concern and average fecal coliform concentrations meet the Washington State water quality standard of 14 cfu/100 mL for primary contact water bodies. Quilcene Bay tended to have the lowest nutrient levels and Tarboo the highest, although the differences are probably not significant. More data analysis will be completed before the end of the project. For more information, see the project webpage.

Quilcene and Dabob Bay Averages

Discovery Bay (Strait Priority Basins Project): Early Results from Stream, Shoreline & Marine Sampling

    Monthly stream monitoring is more than halfway completed, and looking at the preliminary results it is evident that some streams have had elevated fecal coliform levels (see table below). The news is mixed because, while there have been individual samples that have had high bacteria counts, the averages have generally been low. To pass state water quality standards in the Discovery Bay watershed, streams need to have an average bacteria count of no more than 50 colonies per 100 mL, and no more than ten percent of the samples can be above 100. With only 8 months of sampling done so far, it only takes one sample above 100 to fail part 2 of the standard. Therefore, it is possible that some of the sites shown as failing now, could pass the standard by the end of the year.
     In an exciting development, Jefferson County Public Health was able to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency Manchester Lab to analyze samples using Microbial Source Tracking (MST). MST is a semi-quantitative method using DNA to distinguish bacteria sources from various warm-blooded species. Our project will be examining whether the bacteria sources are from humans or cattle and, in the case of the Zerr drainage, if bird bacterial sources are present. MST sampling started this May and will run for 12 months. 
     JCPH staff have monitored the project’s 33 miles of shoreline during the wet season (Oct-April), and dry season monitoring is continuing. There were several confirmed hotspots along the downtown shoreline of Port Townsend from stormwater outfalls, one hotspot in the Gardiner area, and one in the Maynard area. All sites were resampled to confirm the hotspot and investigation of possible sources has begun. Surveys of septic systems are one of the tools being used to help investigate the hotspots.
     Marine bacteria sampling results have been uniformly low. That is good news for shellfish and recreational water use in the bay. We will continue to sample through the warm season and hope that that trend continues. Visit the project webpage for more information.

Fecal Coliform Preliminary Results
Washington State Department of Ecology

Projects supported by the Centennial Clean Water Program

Jefferson County Public Health Clean Water Projects including the Central Hood Canal, the Strait Priority Basins and the Quilcene-Dabob PIC Projects are funded in part by Centennial Clean Water grants from the Department of Ecology.

Marine & Freshwater Algae Blooms

     Currently, there are two major algae blooms in Jefferson County (see photos at bottom). In Hood Canal a phytoplankton bloom is strikingly visible. Coccolithophores (pictured left) are not harmful to other organisms, though they do make the water appear turquoise in color. Anderson Lake is currently closed due to a heavy freshwater bloom of cyanobacteria containing high levels of the potent nerve toxin anatoxin-a. When the wind isn’t blowing and the sunlight is at the right angle, Anderson Lake looks bright green, but at other times you may not notice the bloom at all. But lab testing in early June confirmed that the water contains toxins at least 1,000 times over the Washington State criteria for recreational safety.

Some Background on Algae Blooms
     Algae are photosynthetic organisms that are natural components of marine and freshwater ecosystems. Common bloom-forming algae found in Jefferson County lakes include green algae and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), and in our saltwater bays dinoflagellates, diatoms and other plankton can be dominant. Blooms occur when a combination of warm temperatures, sunlight, and nutrient-rich waters cause algae to reproduce rapidly, often producing a layer of scum on the surface of the water. Within a few days, a clear lake, pond, ditch, lagoon or bay can become cloudy with algae growth. Blooms are most common in summer but can also occur at any time of year.
     Some blooms may be harmful to other organisms, and are referred to as Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). Some organisms, such as cyanobacteria, can produce biotoxins, or poisons, that can cause illness or death in humans and animals. Not all algae are toxic, and even known toxin-producing species may not produce detectable levels of toxins in every bloom. Toxicity cannot be determined visually, and can change from one day to the next. Laboratory testing is the only way to know if a bloom is toxic.
     In freshwater, these biotoxins can affect humans and animals through water contact and ingestion. In marine water they can be consumed through marine shellfish. Shellfish are filter feeders that ingest particles from the water, including algae. When they consume toxin-producing algae, they accumulate these biotoxins in their tissue. These toxins do not affect the shellfish, but concentrations of these toxins can reach levels that can cause illness or death in humans and other animals when the shellfish are consumed. In spite of the common term “red tide”, blooms that cause shellfish to be toxic usually are not red and may not be visible at all without a microscope.
     However, not all blooms are toxic. But non-toxic algae blooms can still block sunlight from underwater habitats, can clog fish gills, and bloom decomposition can consume oxygen in the water, creating an anoxic environment detrimental to aquatic life. Fish kills can occur when this happens.

For more information
Jefferson County Lake Status (toxic algae) webpage
Shellfish Safety Map and Hotline 1-800-562-5632

Algal blooms
Junk Car

Junk Vehicles: Jefferson County Solid Waste Enforcement

What are Junk Vehicles?
Possessing three or more junk vehicles on a single property of any size is not allowed under Jefferson County regulation.

A junk vehicle includes campers, boats, boat trailers or any other type of vehicle used for human transportation and is defined in Jefferson County Code Chapter 8.10.100. Qualifying definitions include vehicles exhibiting things such as:

  • Three years old or older
  • A license plate that has been invalid for more than 60 days
  • Evidence that the vehicle has not been moved in at least 60 days
  • Build-up of debris, moss or weeds on, in, under, or around the vehicle that obstructs use
  • A missing wheel, license plate, driver-side mirror, tire, body panel, door, hood or other obvious body part, not including a bumper

What’s the Problem?
Vehicles that meet the above description can damage the environment by leaking fluids, flaking paint, degrading metals that can contaminate soil and groundwater.

Multiple junk vehicles on a property can also attract illegal dumping, creating more potential for pollution.

Sewer Man

FREE Homeowner Septic System Care and Maintenance / Homeowner Inspection Certification Trainings

Please check our website in August for the Fall schedule (www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org & look up the class schedule under “Environmental Health/Septic Systems/Resources for Homeowners”)
or call (360) 385-9407. Classes are also available on-line.

Craft3 & USDA Loans

Need help paying for repairs to your septic  system?

Low interest loans are available in Jefferson County. Craft3 is a non-profit organization that offers Clean Water Loans to help families repair or replace their failing septic system with no money down.
The United States Department of  Agriculture (USDA) also offers grant and low-interest loan programs to assist homeowners with installing or replacing septic systems.


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