Northern Hood Canal PIC Project

The Northern Hood Canal Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) project began in early 2019 and encompasses 62 square miles near the entrance to Hood Canal. The overall goal of the project is to protect human health from risks of waterborne pathogens, and restore and protect surface waters for beneficial uses, which include extraordinary aquatic life habitat, shellfish harvest, and recreational use.

The project aNorthern Hood Canal PIC Neighborhoodsrea has been divided into eight "neighborhoods" organized by water basin: Port Ludlow, Paradise Bay, Bywater Bay, Shine, South Point, Thorndyke, Toandos East, and Coyle. These neighborhoods contain rural residential communities, recreational areas, and rural forestland. This area also includes 4,513 acres of approved commercial shellfish beds. The only prohibited shellfish harvesting areas are in Port Ludlow (marina and wastewater treatment plant), Bridgehaven (marina), and Fisherman Harbor in Coyle (marina). Historically the area has been used for lumber production, shipbuilding, fishing, and vacation properties. 

The 2014 Hood Canal Regional PIC Priority Work Plan identified the northern Hood Canal area from the Toandos Peninsula north to Mats Mats Bay as a high priority location for PIC projects, as the Hood Canal is a particularly important and vulnerable part of Puget Sound. The canal has great cultural, economic, and recreational value to Washington state residents and tribes. Water quality in this area is critical to protecting and enhancing human and ecological health, as well as shellfish resources. Shellfish areas have been impacted by pollution in other parts of Hood Canal and it is the goal of this project to prevent that from occurring in this section. Previous monitoring found elevated levels of fecal coliform and E. coli at numerous locations along this area of Hood Canal.

For the current project, Jefferson County Public Health will continue monitoring this area for E.coli bacteria and Enterococcus bacteria. These bacteria indicate the presence of pathogens that could impact human health. Both are present in the feces of warm-blooded animals, including humans, livestock and wildlife. Freshwater will be tested for E.coli, and brackish water will be tested for Enterococcus, as it survives better in saltwater than E.coli bacteria. 

This project, which will last approximately two years, will involve monitoring over 500 freshwater outflows for E.coli or Enterococcus along 45 miles of shoreline, from Basalt Point near Mats Mats Bay to Tskutsko Point on the Toandos Peninsula. This project also includes monthly monitoring of five freshwater streams for E.coli bacteria, temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. These streams are Cooper Creek in Paradise Bay, Shine Creek and Hubbard Creek in Shine, Thorndyke Creek on the Toandos Peninsula, and an unnamed creek flowing into Bywater Bay at Wolfe Property State Park. These streams were chosen based on past data, proximity to residences, and proximity to shellfish harvesting areas. The water quality monitoring data will help prioritize areas for further investigation. We will compare average bacteria results to the Washington State water quality standard in order to identify areas of concern and potential sources of nonpoint source pollution that can affect public health. When bacteria hot spots are identified, we will compose and distribute fact sheets with monitoring results to the residents in that area.

Following the monitoring, we will conduct 200 septic system surveys at individual properties, with emphasis on properties without OSS permits or with permits that are 25 years or older, properties with OSS within 500 feet of the shoreline or near surface water, and properties near water quality hot spots where high levels of bacteria have been found. The goal of these surveys is to inform residents about maintenance requirements, identify and correct failing OSS that are polluting surface water, and to provide financial assistance for such repairs. The surveys involve evaluating the use and health of individual OSS, as well as one-on-one interactions to provide outreach and education regarding OSS operation and maintenance, financial assistance programs, water quality projects, and to provide lists of licensed OSS professionals. To prepare for septic system surveys, staff research each property for background information, including OSS permit and inspection records. We provide the homeowner with this research at the end of the survey, and that will include the OSS as-built (drawing), and most recent inspection report, if they are available. Information about low- and no-cost financial assistance for septic repairs can be found at Craft3 and the USDA Rural Development Program.

In addition to these one-on-one interactions, we will hold two public meetings throughout the duration of this project. We conducted one at the beginning of the project (4/11/2019) to provide the public with further information regarding the project goals, and we will conduct the other at the end of the project to provide data and findings.

Quick terms:

Hot spot = E.coli geometric mean (average) of all samples is > 320 MPN/100 mL or a single E.coli sample is > 1000 MPN/100 mL, OR Enterococcus geometric mean of all samples is > 110 MPN/100 mL or a single Enterococcus sample is > 300 MPN/100 mL

MPN/100 mL = Most Probable Number (a statistical probability of the number of organisms) per 100 mL; a measure of the amount of E. coli or Enterococcus in a sample

Nonpoint source = water pollution that is spread over the landscape

OSS = on-site septic system

  1. J Stenman

    Jacquelyn Stenman

    Environmental Health Specialist II

  2. Environmental Public Health

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