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Waters of Dyes Inlet steadily improving

Known for its pristine scenery and majestic waterways, Kitsap County is a final destination for many travelers, tourists and residents.

In an effort to keep it this way, the Kitsap County Health District (KCHD) partnered with Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management (KCSSWM) to conduct case studies across Silverdale and Chico to reduce fecal pollution and runoff.

“The mission is to protect the public from water-borne illness,” said Mindy Fohn, water quality inspector for KCHD, at a meeting Thursday night. “The fecal coliform has been so high (in Clear Creek), it was risky for people to come into contact with the water.”

In 2005, KCHD conducted a study showing stormwater had high levels of fecal coliform. The fecal bacteria attaches itself to sediments that wash off streets and parking lots in rainy weather and run into storm drains. Other sources of contamination include failing septic systems, water runoff from streets that carry automobile fluids and waste from pets and urban wildlife.

“We inspected property by property,” Fohn added. “Out of 207 inspections, 30 percent needed maintenance in the form of removing sediment, vegetation of ponds and bioswells ... 95 percent have been attended to, but the most common problem was sediment.”

Fohn added that if a homeowner or business has messy housekeeping tendencies, it will attract urban wildlife. Some business sites that were surveyed showed garbage and grease in parking lots and dumpsters, grease traps that were not functioning properly and garbage in storm drains. One of the business sites that Fohn visited had left the plug out of their dumpster, allowing rainwater to flush through the garbage, creating less of a smell. However, when visiting the area behind the business where the drainage water trail flowed out, a thick, greasy film lined the edges of the grass. The problem has now been fixed, Fohn said, and the businesses surveyed have worked hard to keep storm drains clear of unclean runoff.

“We talk to businesses a lot about runoff going from parking lots to creeks to Puget Sound,” Fohn added. “If you think there’s a problem, contact us because one storm drain makes a big difference.”

Art Castle of the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County spoke at the meeting about how residents can help prevent polluting streams by putting rain gardens in their yards and using pervious soils and asphalts. Also at the meeting, Jayna Ericson with KCSSWM discussed how residents can prevent polluting local streams and Puget Sound.

“Native soil and vegetation acts as a sponge for runoff water,” Ericson said, adding that stormwater is a leading source of water quality pollution in urban areas. “Rainwater is not polluted, but the surfaces is washes over are.”

Ericson added that residents can help prevent this from happening by not hosing off their driveways but by dry sweeping, washing vehicles at commercial car washes instead of their home and fertilizing lawns according to directions. Stenciling storm drains with pictures of salmon was another suggestions Ericson made so people are aware of where the water goes before they dump anything in them.

“We’re trying to keep only rain in the storm drains,” Ericson added. “Kitsap County is a beautiful place characterized by our beautiful water, we have the power to keep it that way.”

For additional information, contact Fohn at (360) 337-5621 or visit www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

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