Whatcom County Shellfish Protection Districts - Pollution Control Strategy

Pollution Control Plan

Date Plan Created/Updated

Drayton Harbor updated 2007; Portage Bay updated 2014; Birch Bay created 2009

Process for Creating SPD/Plan

The Drayton Harbor plan was generated by an advisory committee, after listening to agency experts on pollution related topics. The plan was updated by the advisory committee, at which time the committee also reviewed the progress of the SPD. The plan was adopted by the County Council through Resolution 2007-230.

The Portage Bay plan was generated by an advisory committee and is in the process of being updated during 2014.

The Birch Bay plan was generated by an advisory committee after the district was establshed in 2009.

Links to Pollution Control Plans

Pollution Source: On-Site Sewage Systems (OSS)

Identifying Potential Pollution Source

Whatcom County Public Health OSS Program provides an overview of OSS regulations, O&M program, homeowner training for inspections, and a low interest loan program. Whatcom County Public Health Department identifies OSS that are failing and thus potential pollution sources using several approaches. One is an Operation and Maintenance (O&M) program that requires OSSs to be evaluated on a routine basis and at the time of property transfers. The program originally consisted of an initial evaluation with a licensed O&M inspector, but now allows inspection by homeowners. Although the O&M program is countywide, there is more emphasis in the Drayton Harbor watershed and Lake Whatcom due to their designations as a Marine Recovery Area and a Sensitive Area, allowing for enforcement of the O&M requirements. We also find failures through investigation of reports of potential OSS failures from the public and other community groups. Finally, communication and participation with Whatcom County public works and Ecology in a coordinated effort to identify and correct pollution sources also leads to the identification of OSS failures. Documented water quality problem areas, as well as site specific data showing development on OSS in the area, provide justification for the OSS O&M program not only in the SPD but also county wide at the county council level.

A Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Blaine needed extensive inspection and upgrades to be ruled out as a source of pollution. The SPD supported the upgrading of the WWTP and other improvements. The SPD and Community Oyster Farm received a small grant to help camera Blaine sewer lines and resulted in upgrades to several manholes. The City of Blaine has invested significant resources over the past 15 years in reducing sewage sources through temporary storage bladders for rain events, upgrading manholes, and eventually investing in a new WWTP.

Validating Source of Pollution

Areas for evaluation may be identified through water quality results or complaints. A suspected OSS failure is typically evaluated by Health Department staff utilizing a flow/dye test. If a property owner chooses to have their OSS evaluated by a licensed inspector we will accommodate that request and review the report to determine if additional follow up by staff is necessary.

Verifying Pollution Source Has Been Corrected

The Whatcom County Health Department has the authority to use enforcement to ensure that OSS failures are repaired. All failures are tracked to ensure that property owners are meeting compliance deadlines. A permit is required for replacing a failing OSS. After the new system is installed it is inspected by the Health Department.

Establishing a Threshold (concentration, number of counts or flow rate)


Pollution Source: Agriculture

Identifying Potential Pollution Source

The SPDs in Whatcom County function by recommending work in the area and holding the agencies accountable. The large number of dairy and non-dairy agricultural operations in Whatcom County make agriculture a significant potential pollution source. The State Department of Agriculture regulates dairies through dairy nutrient management plans. Ecology regulates all discharges to waters of the state and can also enforce regulations based on the potential for a source to pollute. Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) regulates potential agricultural violations through the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). The CAO's Whatcom County Conservation Program on Agricultural Lands (PDF) provides flexibility to landowners with agricultural operations in the buffers through development and implementation of a farm plan. Enforcement is challenging and not popular using the CAO. Except in terms of permits, agricultural operations in critical areas are addressed through a complaint based program, but very little resources by Whatcom County are used towards enforcement. New agricultural sub-divisions and other permitted development on agricultural lands require use of CPAL program to farm in the buffers (otherwise the standard buffer is required). The Whatcom Conservation District does not have funding from the county, but is the main source for agricultural assistance, such as farm plans. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is run through the Conservation District (CD), has been a successful program in Whatcom County. The SPD requests updates from the CPAL program and WSDA dairy inspection program, supports efforts by the CD, and recommends improving coordination between agencies.

Validating Source of Pollution

All dairies are inspected by WSDA about every 18months. Water quality monitoring is used to identify hot spots with consistently high bacteria counts or specific incidents. Staff from WSDA, DOE, and PDS may follow up on potential agricultural sources in drainages with elevated bacteria levels.

Verifying Pollution Source Has Been Corrected


Other Pollution Source

Pet Waste

Pet waste has primarily been targeted through community outreach and dog waste bag receptacles in areas popular for dog walking. Information about pet waste as a source of bacteria has been included in newsletters, fact sheets, and the website. Dog waste bag receptacles have been installed at the Blaine Marina, along Marine Drive, and along Semiahmoo Drive. These are all areas immediately adjacent to the harbor. In Birch Bay, Birch Bay Watershed Aquatic Resource Management District (BBWARM) and community volunteers work to maintain and supply nine pet waste bag and trash stations along Birch Bay Drive for pet owners that forget their own bags. (See a map of the "Mutt Mitt" stations in Birch Bay where you can pick up or deposit a bag.)

Wastewater Treatment Plant

see above

Other (including wildlife, stormwater, marinas)

Two large marinas exist in Drayton Harbor. The SPD has focused on the Blaine Marina. The Port is on the advisory board of the Drayton Harbor SPD and is attentive to pollution. Many studies in the marina have examined the potential sources in the marina. The Port's permit for the marina expansion was also tied to monitoring. The Port encourages stewardship through newsletters, has worked with businesses with commercial leases to implement BMPs, has piloted and installed several bird scare techniques, and has several pump out stations for holding tanks. A pump out boat was recently purchased for the Semiahmoo Marina using DOH grant funds that State Parks applied for.

Stormwater represents a significant source of fecal pollution. The SPD plan calls for monitoring of stormwater outfalls.

More About Whatcom County Shellfish Protection Districts

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