Heavy rainfall needed to flush bacteria out of Barker Creek

Levels of bacteria remain high in Barker Creek, more than a month and a half after a sewage spill into a tributary of the creek.

“We still don’t consider it safe for contact and we are monitoring it closely,” said Stuart Whitford, water quality program manager with the Kitsap County Health District.

Samples collected at a Nels Nelson Road check point show that after the sewage spill, the concentration of fecal coliform bacteria nearly tripled. At the mouth of the creek, the contamination level remains even higher.

Officials have to let Barker Creek recover naturally. Because the creek flows into Dyes Inlet, chemicals such as lime cannot be used to reduce the bacteria count, because they affect the pH balance of the water, explained Ralph DeClements, operations supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works.

“It could be that we won’t see a drop in fecal bacteria levels in the creek until heavy rainfall,” Whitford said.

In the meantime, Health District officials are reminding people the creek remains unsafe for contact and the ban on shellfish harvesting persists.

In fact the creek had been contaminated for some time before the broken pipe dumped 100,000 to 150,000 gallons of raw sewage into it earlier this summer.

Whitford said the Health District had been conducting a large scale pollution identification project in Barker Creek since October 2004. Health District representatives were going door-to-door looking for sources of contamination in the area.

When a crew installing a culvert on Nels Nelson Road on June 21 broke a sewer line in the area, Public Works shut down the pump in Lift Station 20.

“We thought we did pretty good,” DeClements said.

However, gravity introduced an unexpected twist. Back-flow through the pipes from stations 19 and four continued to gush more raw sewage into the creek’s tributary.

Because of this gravity-induced backlash, the exact amount of sewage that found its way into the creek is difficult to estimate.

“The reason we can’t give direct numbers is that was unfortunately a unique situation,” DeClements said.

More than enough fecal coliform bacteria made their way into creek water.

“Those bacteria do survive quite well in sediments,” Whitford said. “Once introduced in that amount, now they’re

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