Pollution from Fecal Coliform Bacteria
What is fecal coliform bacteria pollution?
Fecal coliform bacteria are naturally occurring microorganisms that
live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans.
The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in Kitsap County's creeks
and shorelines indicates the water is contaminated with fecal
waste from sources such as failing septic systems, leaking sewer
infrastructure, household pets, livestock, and/or wildlife.
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Why is it a problem?
Though fecal coliform bacteria alone are not particularly harmful to
humans, large concentrations indicate the
possible presence of disease-causing viruses and pathogens. Water
monitoring conducted throughout Kitsap County has identified
elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria in some streams, which
make them unsuitable for basic recreational uses. Fecal coliform
bacteria pollution also results in shellfish bed advisories, and
closures of shellfish beds and swimming beaches on Kitsap's
shorelines. To learn more, visit the
Kitsap Public Health District Water Quality program website.
What is being done about it?
Clean Water Kitsap works to proactively
reduce fecal coliform bacteria pollution in our waterways. Funds
from this program are used by the Kitsap Public Health District to
conduct Pollution Identification and Correction (PIC) projects to
identify and correct fecal sources in areas where bacteria pollution
is high. These efforts have been successful in improving water
quality throughout the county. Examples of successful Health
District water quality projects include:
- Cleanup project work in the Dogfish Creek watershed near Poulsbo has
resulted in an improving water quality trend.
- Gorst Creek Sanitary Survey work has resulted in a long-term
improving trend in Gorst Creek water quality.
- Water quality project in the Yukon Harbor area near Manchester has
resulted in improving marine water quality.
- The Health District expanded cleanup efforts into urban areas in the
Dyes Inlet Restoration project. Water quality results were quickly
observed with marine water improvements, and Clear Creek water
quality improved dramatically allowing the removal of public warning
- Pollution identification work in Hood Canal has resulted in an
improving water quality trend in Port Gamble Bay. Shoreline
discharges from drainages with failing septic systems showed
elevated nutrients. Nutrient levels were reduced after correction.
For more information on these and other PIC projects, visit
the Health Districts website:
Special attention has also been focused on Dyes and Sinclair Inlets
and their surrounding watersheds. These areas are included on the
Washington State Department of Ecology's list of impaired
water bodies due to high levels of fecal coliform bacteria and other
pollutants. A water quality improvement plan is currently being
developed, and work to improve the water bodies has already started
through a partnership called Project ENVVEST (short for ENVironmental inVESTment)
What can you do?
Citizens can help reduce fecal coliform pollution from three main
sources: failing septic systems, pet waste, and livestock.
Septic systems are very effective at treating wastewater when
properly maintained. Numerous resources are available to help
homeowners understand and care for their systems. Learn more at
Kitsap Public Health District's website.
Surprisingly, pets in Kitsap County may produce more than 5 tons of
waste each day. Although pet waste is natural and may even seem like
good fertilizer, it is actually similar to raw sewage and can pose
health risks to your family and pets! Bacteria and viruses from pet
waste may wash into local waterways and can remain in the
environment for a long time, degrading water quality for uses such
as swimming, fishing, and shellfish harvesting. Whether in a park,
on a walk, or in the yard, pet owners should regularly pick up pet
waste, double bag it, and dispose of it in the trash.
Mutt Mitt dispensers are available for FREE
to individuals or groups who would like to install "dog rest stops"
in their community. Kitsap County Public Works
and Kitsap Public Health District have teamed up to provide the
dispenser and a case of 800 mitts to community representatives who
are willing to regularly refill the dispenser and provide trash
Livestock can also contribute to fecal pollution in our local
waterways. As a Clean Water Kitsap County program partner, the Kitsap Conservation District provides a
voluntary program to help farmers and livestock owners manage their
land and animals to reduce and prevent fecal pollution. To learn
more about practices to use on small farms to improve
water quality, visit the
Conservation District's website.
360.337.5777 or 800.825.4940