Padilla Bay sloughs

Renée Fields (left) and Danielle DeVoe, both of the state Department of Ecology, look out over the mudflats of Padilla Bay in June 2016 before taking water samples from No Name Slough.

The state Department of Ecology released Thursday a draft report that details the problem of fecal coliform bacteria in sloughs that flow into Padilla Bay and that lists possible solutions.

The document is open for public comment until noon Nov. 22, and online public meetings are set for 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Fecal coliform bacteria is associated with human and animal feces, which may come from failing septic systems, leaking sewers, livestock manure, pet waste and wildlife. Its presence above certain levels poses health risks, often leading to swimming and shellfish harvesting closures.

During a study of the Padilla Bay watershed between 2016 and 2018, Ecology determined Joe Leary, No Name, Big Indian and Little Indian sloughs had high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

The new draft report concludes that existing programs aimed at such pollution have helped reduce the bacteria levels and should continue. Those programs include stormwater management, work with livestock owners and support for property owners with septic systems.

Ecology’s new document encourages continued and expanded loan programs for septic system repairs, campaigns for pet waste cleanup, development of farm plans for manure management, and low impact development that allows stormwater to filter through the ground.

Comments can be submitted online or by mail to: Scott Bohling, State Department of Ecology Water Quality Program, 3190 160th Avenue SE, Bellevue, 98008-5452.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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