Kitsap’s pollution strategy saves state and federal dollars

Kitsap County’s streams are generally growing cleaner over time.

Shawn Ultican of the Kitsap County Health District takes down a warning sign posted on Enetai Creek. Kitsap Sun photo by Carolyn J. Yaschur
Shawn Ultican of the Kitsap County Health District takes down a warning sign posted on Enetai Creek.
Kitsap Sun photo by Carolyn J. Yaschur

We know this because the Kitsap County Health District monitors most of the streams, lakes and bays throughout the county.

As I reported last week in the Kitsap Sun, water quality in 17 streams are now showing statistically significant improvement in fecal coliform, according to the annual water quality report released last week. That compares to only 12 streams showing significant improvement the year before.

While those general trends are based on an average of water samples throughout the year, health advisories are issued for streams that show high fecal counts during the summer months. That’s when children are likely to be playing in the water. The number of streams considered a “public health hazard” declined from 11 in 2007 to seven in 2008 to three this year.

To read the report for yourself, go to the health district’s Web site or download the Introduction (PDF 440 kb ), which links to the other chapters.

By coincidence, as the health district was announcing its latest results, the Washington Department of Ecology was hailing the agency’s Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) Program as among the “innovative strategies” that are cleaning up pollution throughout the state.

By actively searching for pollution and cleaning it up when it is found, the state has avoided more costly studies that calculate pollution “loading” and allocate limits of pollution for various waterways.

Kitsap was able to clean up 19 waterways on the 2004 list and 33 on the 2008 list of polluted waterways statewide, according to a news release issued by the agency. That’s out of 23 waterways statewide on the 2004 list and 84 on the 2008 list.

“When the sources of pollution are obvious, we shouldn’t waste time and money studying the problem,” said Kelly Susewind, manager of Ecology’s water quality program. “It’s obvious that our waters are cleaner when we fix failing septic systems, keep livestock out of streams, create healthy vegetation for stream sides, and keep polluted runoff from entering storm drains.”

Added Mike Bussell, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Office in Seattle, “Washington continues to be a regional leader in monitoring the health of its waters, Besides doing a good job cataloging their stream segments, they’ve clearly taken public involvement in the assessment process to a new level. Their Web site gives Washington residents an outstanding opportunity to participate and fosters a strong proprietary interest in protecting local water quality.”

Other counties given credit for innovative strategies are Adams, Asotin and Garfield.

The state’s 2008 Water Quality Assessment, also called the 303(d) list, can be found on Ecology’s Web site. A description of how innovative strategies are cleaning up specific streams can be found on a page called “Water Quality Assessment Category 4b.”

5 thoughts on “Kitsap’s pollution strategy saves state and federal dollars

  1. It would be nice to have actual communication between The health District and the neighborhood(s) affected. We’ve been working to clean up Wilson Creek for years, and just saw this sign posted one day. Attempts to follow up for more information led nowhere. It literally took months before we were vaguely told what the issue was–and even then it was so vague that we’re actually still not sure!!

    It’d be nice to register with a creek or beach or other area with one’s email and be auto-notified with REAL data as to what’s happening.

    For those of us working on cleaning up Wilson Creek, it’s been frustrating

  2. I recently had a few issues answered by a knowledgeable person at the Kitsap County Health Department.
    Call them again and ask for information and give input.

    Your ideas are good and your should have a right to the information…you’ve got a right to be informed.

    Taxpayers have a right to be informed, especially volunteers working to fix an environmental issue of benefit for us all.

  3. The Health District does work with volunteer groups on several streams in Kitsap County. I am familiar with Wilson Creek, and would be happy to provide further information. Most of the sampling we do is funded by our local Surface and Storm Water Management program, or state grants and contracts. The results are available either through our published reports or by submitting a request for specific data on our website at

    Shawn Ultican
    Kitsap County Health District
    (360) 337-5235

  4. It’s great news, and it also points out the confusing array of players working to make things better. I know a lot about the environmental issues on the Olympic Peninsula, but might not have thought that the Health Department was cleaning up streams. There are so many players like Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Community Development, DNR, etc. I assume that the signs had some clue as to who put them up.

    I’ve created a web site ( that lists all the players in the environmental game on the Peninsula, you folks might want to build something similar, or add it to this site, Chris, for Kitsap. Keep up the good work, at least the news is good!

  5. Blogging as it was meant to be… at its finest. Sharing information and educating, working together for a common cause.
    Good people, good causes, good information … thanks.

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