What are Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Why Should I Care?
Although there are many types of water pollutants, Whatcom County focuses on fecal coliform bacteria as the primary indicator of surface water quality. Fecal coliform bacteria are found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and their presence in creeks indicates potential pathogens in the water. People are exposed to these pathogens through direct water contact such as swimming, wading, or eating shellfish from waters with high bacteria levels.
Sources of Bacterial Pollution in Whatcom County
The primary cause of bacterial pollution in Whatcom County’s creeks and marine waters is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the term used to describe pollutants that come from many smaller sources, rather than a few large sources. This accumulation of pollutants often results from common activities in both urban and rural areas.
The key potential sources of bacteria that have been identified in Whatcom County coastal drainages are (1) animal waste from agricultural operations, domestic pets, waterfowl, and urban wildlife, and (2) human sewage from failing on-site sewage systems (OSS), leaking sewers, or cross-connections. The potential contribution of deteriorating wood waste and other sources is currently being evaluated.