Stealing Fish To Study Seabirds- Earthfix

As anyone who has bird watched around these parts in the last 20 years can tell, it’s pretty clear we have lost seabird populations. Now some new scientific data has come out on the problem.

Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s and scientists believe pollution is partially to blame. But how do you prove that? Study what the seabirds are eating. A new paper [] published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin found that seabirds in Puget Sound are eating fish that are two to four times more contaminated than fish on Washington’s outer coast. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

Proposed Emergency Legislation Aims To Address Starfish Wasting Syndrome – KPLU

The scientific community apparently needs more help to figure out what is happening to kill off much of our west coast starfish. It’s important to note that this is *not* happening off the African coast, and elsewhere. Something has changed in our waters, and a key link in the environmental chain is vanishing. This is an ecological disaster, and I’m happy to see Representative Heck take a leadership role in trying to find funds at the Federal level for this research. If the answers are worse than we expect, it could be a very crucial problem to solve.

Most people who’ve grown up in the Northwest can remember walking on the beach as a kid, enjoying tide pools full of brightly-colored starfish. But beachcombing has become less joyful over the past year. An epidemic known as sea star wasting syndrome has devastated huge populations of starfish, especially on the West Coast. U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, has introduced an emergency act in Congress to respond to the outbreak. The syndrome was first noticed in Washington waters last summer and has spread rapidly since. White lesions appear on the skin of affected starfish which then curl up, contort and disintegrate. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KPLU)

Shellfish Tell Puget Sound’s Polluted Tale – Earthfix

It’s always been a question mark in my mind, about how much of the bad stuff in the Sound are we eating with our delicious meals of shellfish. Now we know. And it’s a good word of caution that if you are regularly eating shellfish, that buying them from growers who are away from urban environments, or harvesting them yourself in remote places, is the best rule of thumb. And it also gives us a very easy way  to measure the recovery efforts at work. The bad news is that PCBs, long banned, continue to be found in the water, as do flame retardants. Both are cancer causing. It points out that storm water runoff and our crazy notion that we can pour our sewage into our Sound, have consequences for us.

Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound. And in some places, it’s pretty contaminated. This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound. After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results. [] Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

How Long Does Garbage Last In the Ocean? – Art by Erica Wasner

Shared out by our friends at Ocean Defender in Hawaii – Worth sharing with kids. Great for getting a beach walk and bringing along a bag for the garbage.

How Long Does Garbage Last In The Ocean?

Feasibility study addresses Dungeness/3 Crabs-area pollution – PDN

This actually seems to be a reasonable alternative. The recommendation is to enforce current laws, raise the local money to pay for regular inspection, which as I have heard, is not happening currently, and monitor to see whether the problems improve. Rushing to judgement on putting in a huge infrastructure project, even if it’s eventually found to be the right solution, seems premature. Let’s make sure the existing laws work, before abandoning them.

Clallam County should strengthen an existing program to operate and maintain individual on-site septic systems in the Dungeness/3 Crabs area, a new study concludes. Staying the course was one of four alternatives being considered in a feasibility study for wastewater management in an unincorporated area where failing septic systems were said to be polluting Dungeness Bay with fecal coliform and nitrogen. Damon McAlister, a senior engineer with Parametrix, and county Environmental Health Director Andy Brastad presented the final study to the Clallam County commissioners Tuesday. Rob Ollikainen reports.

Feasibility study addresses Dungeness/3 Crabs-area pollution

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Salish Sea Health Report shows mixed trends for key environmental indicators in Puget Sound and Northwest Straits

A report featuring key environmental indicators for the Salish Sea shows mixed trends, with some indicators showing improvements, others declining, and others remaining steady. The Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, features indicators in four key areas: Air, water, animal species, and human well-being. The contents of the report are featured in a comprehensive website: …. As a whole, the 2013 report showed positive trends in reducing pollution in the aquatic food web, but showed continuing declines across aquatic habitat and species based indicators. More specifically, the report shows improved air quality, improved freshwater water quality and reductions in persistent toxic chemicals in the aquatic food web. The indicators representing populations of wild species, including marine species at risk and Chinook salmon abundance, need more attention. Two habitat indicators sensitive to climate change, summer stream flow and marine water quality, are also showing declining trends. News release:

Sediment Health in Central Puget Sound Declining Over 10 years

The Department of Ecology (DOE) has just released a report showing that the health of Central Puget Sound sediment is declining over the last 10 years. The life that lives in the sediment, called Benthic invertebrates, have declined dramatically. This goes along with increasing ocean acidification that has been seen in Puget Sound and Hood Canal. These is not good news.

The good news can be seen in that  that lead, mercury and the ingredient in fire retardant has decreased in the sediment.

But the bad news is that “Ecology has observed similar declines in benthic invertebrate health in other regions and bays throughout Puget Sound, including the Strait of Georgia, Hood Canal, Elliott Bay, Commencement Bay, and Bainbridge Basin. Poor sediment health also has been observed in Bellingham Bay, Budd Inlet, the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the San Juan Islands.”

We’re hoping that given these results that Ecology won’t wait another 10 years to test.  To be clear, one of the key issues that the Puget Sound Partnership found in their prioritization of issues that has taken them a number of years to collect, is that monitoring has been lacking in key areas. It’s gratifying to see that monitoring appears to be getting done at long last.


Washington State Department of Ecology – June 4, 2013


Sediment health in Central Puget Sound declining

OLYMPIA – Sediments in the bottom of Central Puget Sound show declining environmental health over a 10-year period, according to a just-released report from the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Central Puget Sound is the area south of Whidbey Island to the Tacoma Narrows. It includes industrialized and urbanized Elliott and Commencement bays, Sinclair Inlet and Bainbridge Basin.

“The overall decline in sediment health is important because it is an indicator of the health of Puget Sound,” said Valerie Partridge, Ecology’s lead author for the report.


The report, “Sediment Quality in Central Puget Sound, Changes Over a Ten-Year Period,” compared sediment samples the state program collected in 2008 and 2009 to samples it collected in 1998 and 1999.


The comparison found the decline in health of sediment-dwelling life – known as benthic invertebrates – had spread to 28 percent of the region, up from 7 percent.


Benthic invertebrates are a key part of the marine food web.

The decline could not be attributed to any significant chemical contamination that Ecology measured. The major driving factor contributing to the decline in sediment health was the change in the number and types of benthic invertebrates, including a shift to more pollution-tolerant species.


Ecology also found an increase in low-level toxicity in the sediments over a wider area compared with previous testing in Central Puget Sound.

The study also turned up good news. Central Sound sediments showed a decrease in concentrations of lead, mercury, silver, tin and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. It also found that more samples are meeting state sediment quality standards in the heavily industrialized areas of Elliott and Commencement bays. These trends suggest positive results from collective cleanups and pollution prevention efforts in those areas.

Ecology scientists are not sure why the negative changes are taking place.


Maggie Dutch, lead scientist for Ecology’s Puget Sound Sediment Monitoring Program said: “The sediment monitoring program was established to measure levels of toxic chemicals throughout Puget Sound, and to determine their effects on benthic invertebrate communities. While we have seen improvements in the condition of these communities in urban areas that have undergone cleanup of toxics, we are also seeing unexpected declines in community condition where toxic chemicals we measure were not detected.Other human and natural factors in Puget Sound could be a cause.”

Dutch said some of the factors that may influence the health of the organisms in the sediments include:

  • Changes in food resources that sink through the water and reach the bottom sediments.
  • Changes in dissolved oxygen, pH, and levels of ammonia and sulfides in the water above and within the sediments.
  • Natural population cycles of sediment-dwelling organisms that may be influenced by oceanic cycles.
  • Sediment movement and burial.
  • Unmeasured contaminants, including contaminants of emerging concern, contaminant mixtures, and contaminants that may sicken but not kill marine life.

Dutch said, “While we did not measure these other factors, we will link our data to other projects that may have this information to help us map out causes.”


The state’s regional sediment monitoring is part of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP). The program is a collaboration of state, federal, tribal, local government, non-governmental, watershed, business, private and volunteer groups dedicated to monitoring the environmental conditions of Puget Sound.


Ken Dzinbal, PSEMP lead for the Puget Sound Partnership, said: “Marine monitoring is important because you can’t fix what you don’t measure. Monitoring tells us if Puget Sound is getting better or if it’s getting worse.”

“We are seeing trends. We have ideas about the causes of problems. Our monitoring helps tell us if we are testing the right things and helps us identify solutions to pollution problems,” Dzinbal said.


Scientists have developed several ecological indicators to track the health of the Puget Sound ecosystem and how it changes over time. Ecology’s sediment science has been adopted by the Puget Sound Partnership as Vital Signs Dashboard Indicators.

While the Central Sound findings are for the region as a whole, Ecology’s marine monitoring program has separate surveys and separate reports for Elliott Bay, Commencement Bay and the Bainbridge Basin (including Sinclair Inlet). The stories of the bays are different from the story of the region as a whole.


Ecology has observed similar declines in benthic invertebrate health in other regions and bays throughout Puget Sound, including the Strait of Georgia, Hood Canal, Elliott Bay, Commencement Bay, and Bainbridge Basin. Poor sediment health also has been observed in Bellingham Bay, Budd Inlet, the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the San Juan Islands.

Ecology is conducting follow-up sediment sampling in Elliott Bay. Sediment monitoring of urban bays is part of Ecology’s Urban Waters Initiative, which began in 2007.


Ecology’s data and documentation can be found on Ecology’s marine sediment monitoring website.


Media contact

Sandy Howard, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6408 (desk); 360-791-3177 (cell);

For more information:


Marine sediment monitoring photos on Flickr (

Department of Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program (

Puget Sound Partnership as Vital Signs Dashboard Indicators (

Ecology’s social media (

Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See


Dungeness and Three Crabs Septic issues plan put forward

Progress is being made on coming up with alternatives for fixing the ongoing coliform bacteria problems at Dungeness Bay. Given that this spectacular shellfish area is generally prohibited from being harvested due to the pollution, fixing this problem would not only bring scenic but economic benefits.

The latest on it at the PDN:

Mystery compound found to kill Coho salmon–Kitsap Sun

In the last year there’s been a growing body of evidence that seems to show that runoff from our roads may be a significant and possibly primary cause of loss of salmon in our creeks and rivers. Chris Dunagan reports on efforts to identify this substance in Kitsap County.

Meanwhile, researchers in Seattle have decided to simply look at rain gardens to filter the poisons out. With great success. The following video shows the problem, and wat may be the ultimate solution. The next question that needs to get asked is, “What happens with the rain garden? Does it become a toxic waste site?

“Drained: Urban Stormwater Pollution”

Ambitious Brightwater sewage project now online after long effort–Seattle Times

This relates to us on the Peninsula, because Seattle and it’s environs has been putting billions of gallons of treated sewage into the Sound for decades, without clearly understanding it’s long term affects on salinity, pollution load, etc. Relatives of mine who have lived in Indianola since the late 20s’ claim that the beach has become a shadow of it’s former self, with very little of the great clam beds that used to be there. No one understands why, but it isn’t out of the question that sewage and stormwater runoff have taken their toll. We just have no real scientific monitoring done over decades to clearly show what has happened. That is why the Puget Sound Partnership is worth funding. To do this on a long term basis.

I have been critical of the fact that we all use the Sound as our toilet bowl, regardless of whether it is treated sewage or not (i.e. Victoria).  We need the ability to put in composting toilets if we want to, and  other technological advancements.

In the meantime, Brightwater is going to put into the Sound at least highly cleansed water. The best thing it could do from here, is pipe it to all the golf courses needing water for the fairways, and for other non drinking uses. Maybe someday we’ll even see it used to fill toilet bowls, rather than our ongoing use of fresh drinking water for that.

In a milestone for clean water, the new Brightwater treatment plant has begun work after more than a decade in the making and nearly $2 billion invested in the project. The plant began treating sewage and discharged some of the first treated effluent into Puget Sound at the beginning of the month. The plant is so effective it is producing water 30 times cleaner than required under its state permit, and clean enough to use as reclaimed water. Lynda Mapes reports.

Read the whole story at the Seattle Times:

Caffeine flushed into Pacific Ocean stresses marine life–CBC

So my question is: Is Caffeine ‘legacy’ as well as modern? Does it have a half life? Is this the caffeine that was dumped by our fathers in the 30s into the Sound after drinking coffee? Or is it modern?

Caffeine has become a significant pollutant in the ocean off the U.S. Pacific Northwest, according to a university researcher. Elise Granek, a marine ecologist at Portland State University in Oregon, sampled waters up and down the Oregon coast and found measurable levels of caffeine…Granek, who did all her initial research in the waters off Oregon, said she’s curious about caffeine levels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between southern Vancouver Island and the Washington coast. That’s where Victoria pumps untreated sewage effluent directly into its coastal waters, and won’t have a sewage treatment facility in place until 2018.

Gates Foundation Launches Effort to Reinvent the Toilet

Sometimes I have found myself oddly agreeing with radical anti-environmentalists. One place that happened was in a discussion on sewage. A woman who opposed all environmental protections had stood up and yelled that “we” should all figure out a way to stop dumping our sewage in the Sound first. I told her I’d love to have her help us figure that out and would gladly support that idea. I have felt that the real solution to our problems with Puget Sound is not “dilution”, but  to stop using the Salish Sea as our toilet bowl. Maybe the efforts of the Gates Foundation to bring sanitation to the third world with new toilets that don’t need water, can eventually lead to us finding a way out of this 19th century habit of pouring our waste into our rivers and waterways.

Crazy? Well people thought that we could never see an end to nuclear war, or DDT. Nuclear war was avoided and DDT is no longer used in the US. Eagle populations returned. So, if we can put a funny looking rover on Mars, we can do this folks. We need to.  Here’s a salute to Bill Gates for thinking out of the box, and doing something to help us get out off the toilet. Pun intended.


New strategy promotes adoption of safe, affordable sanitation in the developing world

KIGALI, Rwanda — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the launch of a strategy to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.
In a keynote address at the 2011 AfricaSan Conference in Kigali, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program, called on donors, governments, the private sector, and NGOs to address the urgent challenge, which affects nearly 40 percent of the world’s population. Flush toilets are unavailable to the vast majority in the developing world, and billions of people lack a safe, reliable toilet or latrine. More than a billion people defecate in the open.

How Logging and Agriculture Affect Water Quality – Earthfix Podcast

Podcast: The Next Act II – How Logging And Agriculture Affect Water Quality –

Good podcast on the issues related to the problems (all fixable) of logging and agriculture. This is an ongoing tug of war with those engaged in the both, vs. what needs to be done to allow the activities to continue with minimal if any harm to streams that provide us with salmon.

Scientist shares expertise with Puget Sound pollution–Everett Herald

If you want a good idea of what kinds of pollution are lurking in Puget Sound, and whether to worry about them, talking to Lincoln Loehr would be a good place to start.  Loehr has accumulated decades of experience as a scientist and marine policy expert. The Mukilteo resident has been sharing that expertise by volunteering with the Snohomish County Marine Resources Advisory Committee, where he was first appointed to serve in 2008. Noah Haglund reports.

Recent Developments in Water Transfers and Water Marketing conference

Register Now:
Not just for lawyers! Water managers, nonprofit advocates, agency staff and water users will learn and discuss insights into the challenge: how to manage scarce water resources for all.

Getting out of Hot Water:
Recent Developments in Water Transfers and Water Marketing
A CLE Conference co-sponsored by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Washington Water Trust

Wednesday May 30, 2012
8:00am- 5:00pm
2100 Building- 2100 24th Avenue South, Seattle 98144
For full agenda and speaker bios:
Getting Out of Hot Water CLE Brochure
Two watersheds – the Kittitas and the Dungeness – are prominent examples of how conflicts arise and solutions can be developed to ensure water for out-of-stream and instream uses. At this conference, learn about mitigation rules and practical methods to meet them, the nuts and bolts of water transfers, and what to look for in upcoming court decisions and policy guidance regarding implementation of the Municipal Water Law.

Register here:

Kitsap study reveals much about stormwater–Kitsap Sun

Chris Dunagan in the Kitsap Sun reports about how the Sinclair-Dyes inlet pollution study shows how bacteria get easily transported by urban runoff into shellfish areas. ‘Kitsap study reveals much about stormwater

Big Oil’s History in Puget Sound

Wondering how Puget Sound fares with Big Oil? From People For Puget Sound: Here’s how Puget Sound’s Big Oil industry has over the years lobbied against environmental protections, put its workers at risk, and spilled product on the Sound’s waters:

South Sound Commercial Shellfish Improving

This is good news. Things are improving for South Sound growers, which is a step in the right direction

4/14 Olympian
Commercial shellfish beaches improve
JOHN DODGE; Staff writer

South Sound commercial shellfish beaches are conspicuous in their absence from the state Department of Health’s 2010 list of polluted beaches threatened with harvest closures.
It marks the first time since the state agency started its annual early warning notices in 1997 that one or more growing areas in Mason and Thurston counties haven’t been on the list, state Health Department shellfish specialist Bob Woolrich said.
The list of 10 areas threatened with harvest restrictions is down from 16 last year and is the least number of areas with deteriorating marine water quality in the past 13 years.

“We’ve seen improvement in water quality in many shellfish growing  areas over the past year,” Woolrich said.

More at

New E.P.A. Scrutiny Is Set for a Chemical in Plastics

This goes along with the statewide ban on BPA that the governor recently signed into law. This is good news as it will help keep this one chemical, which has been widely found in the waters around here, out of circulation. – Editor

3/29 NY Times
New E.P.A. Scrutiny Is Set for a Chemical in Plastics

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency  plans to add bisphenol-A <; , or BPA, a plastic widely used in food packaging and plastic bottles, to its list of chemicals of concern because of potential adverse impacts on the environment and human and animal health.

The agency will require new studies of concentrations of the plastic in surface water, groundwater and drinking water to determine where it exists in levels requiring action. More than a million pounds of the chemical, used to harden plastics, are released into the environment each year, the agency said.

The environmental agency will also require manufacturers that use BPA to provide test data to help evaluate effects on growth, reproduction and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife.

More at

Cocaine, Spices, Hormones Found in Drinking Water and the Sound

It’s worth noting that the article points out that Richard Keil is  working with People For Puget Sound as part of the Sound Citizen  program. P4PS current has a fundraising drive to keep programs like this going. Please join us to support projects like these!

Surprising Ingredients Found in Puget Sound Waters
By David Bois

Scientists working in and around Washington state’s Puget Sound have compiled what sounds like a pretty festive and flavorful shopping list: let’s see, there’s cinnamon, thyme and sage, some vanilla, and chocolate too.

Unfortunately, as reported by National Geographic <; , this is not a shopping list, but the results of water quality analysis from Puget Sound water samples, and the mechanism for how these items found their way into regional waters is, shall we say, not terribly appetizing.

Richard Keil is a professor of oceanography at the University of Washington and heads up the People for Puget Sound’s Sound Citizen program <> that focuses effort on understanding how what we do on land has an effect on our water resources. Among the things we do on land are eat, drink and use the facilities, which leads us back to Keil and group’s recent discoveries.

More at

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