"Kitsap's waterways ranked as clean, dirty"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:27 AM
"While marine waters surrounding Kitsap are safe by state standards, some of the county's streams and lakes could stand a good cleaning - and many of them have for several months, if not years.Those findings and more were documented in a comprehensive water quality and monitoring report released earlier this month by the Bremerton-Kitsap Health District. Chock full of statistics garnered by scientists throughout 1999, the report pinpoints the most- and least-polluted of Kitsap's waterways. It also addresses what the county is doing to fix up water riddled with bacteria or other problems.We're not just monitoring these waterways for the sake of monitoring, said Stuart Whitford, a water quality supervisor for the health district. We need to know where the bad areas are so we can get our team in there and get them cleaned up for the community.Put another way, the current water report and all others preceding it help local scientists prioritize what streams, lakes or marine waters need the most cleaning up and what cleanup efforts actually work.That's one reason Whitford is excited about the late-December release of a health district report that documents five years of statistical information about the quality of Kitsap waterways.Trend analysis will be more attainable with more information, said Whitford. At that point, we can make more forceful statements about what the statistics mean.Whitford said the five-year report will have the data in place to show whether cleanup efforts performed by the health district, the parks department or other county officials have paid off.TROUBLED STREAMS The bad news is, there are several streams riddled with unhealthy levels of fecal coliform in North, Central and South Kitsap County.In South Kitsap, the Annapolis, Burley and Little Bear creeks are listed among the top five most polluted streams in Kitsap County.Dee Creek, located in the City of Bremerton, is is the second-most polluted stream in Kitsap, and Dogfish Creek, located near the city of Poulsbo, is the third-most polluted river. The good news in all of that is the health district has already kick-started a water quality improvement program, with help from state grants, in the communities surrounding those rivers, including Burley and Little Bear creeks.Bremerton-Kitsap Health District staff members have contacted residents living within the South Kitsap neighborhoods surrounding the creeks. Sometimes going door-to-door, water quality specialists have performed several inspections and uncovered 24 failing septic systems that are affecting the nearby streams.The success of these programs is dependent on the cooperation of the community as a whole, said Whitford. As a result of these inspections and community talks residents voluntarily chose to tap into a state match grant program that funds septic tank improvements by up to 75 percent, with the property owner making up the rest.Burley Creek and Little Bear Creek, which is a tributary to Burley, both drain into Burley Lagoon located in South Kitsap. The lagoon is a known shellfish harvesting area. The health of Burley and Little Bear creeks have been called into question in recent years and the state has shutdown recreational shellfish harvests in that area. Meanwhile, in Annapolis Creek, health district officials say a sewer line burst and was subsequently repaired. Since then, health officials have constantly monitored Annapolis, which drains into Sinclair Inlet.It takes quite a bit of time for a stream to flush itself out, said Whitford. There's been a nice decrease over last year in the pollution, and we hope that when the (five-year) report comes out, we'll see another decrease.Health district officials contacted property owners in the Dogfish Creek area in North Kitsap, as well. Depending on what officials and property owners found, neighbors sometimes chose to apply for low-interest loans to fix what needed fixing, whether it was an outdated septic system, or to install fencing to protect the stream riparian zone.DIRTY LAKESAmong the most polluted lakes in Kitsap is Island Lake, followed by Kitsap, Horseshoe, Mission and Symington lakes, respectively.Health district water quality gurus constantly monitor Kitsap lakes for E-coli bacteria levels because they are considered to be the best indicators of human health risk.Though all of Kitsap's lakes contain varying levels of E-coli bacteria, the root cause of the bacteria's presence is the same - the prevalence of ducks and geese and their feces.While the county health district monitors the health of these lakes and, when it's warranted, will post signs to let residents know about any health threats at the swimming beaches, the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department has primarily worked on cleaning up the problem, especially at Island Lake.According to Dori Leckner, a parks employee, the department has gone a long way toward encouraging Canada geese to move elsewhere.Leckner said parks officials tried cutting off irrigation to the grass near Island Lake, spreading sand over it to extend the beach.Geese are grazing animals, she said. We did that so the geese wouldn't graze near the swimming areas.Also in that vein, park crews sprayed grass with non-toxic grapex or rejex-it type materials that, while not harmful, made the vegetation taste bitter to the geese.The department also flew kite-like objects (they acted like scarecrows) across the lake that distracted and frightened off geese.Volunteers have also helped by scooping up geese feces, which is quite a job, since a goose can defecate 18 times in an hour.More recently, state officials helped the parks department by capturing and hauling away mallards and other birds to another location and infertilizing Canada geese eggs by spraying them with a mineral oil solution.MARINE WATERS Kitsap's marine waters, according to the health district report, are relatively healthy.Even though Cedar Cove, which is located in the Upper Hood Canal Region and the Colvos Passage at Ollala are the two most polluted marine waters, they still fall below the state threshold for allowable fecal coliform.We just have to be vigilant with these marine waters to make sure they stay healthy, said Whitford. 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