Department of Ecology News Release - March 18, 2015

State updates list of polluted waters

OLYMPIA – The state has updated its 303(d) list of rivers, lakes and streams in Washington that have pollution problems, and is asking the public to review it.

The 303(d) polluted waters list is part of the state’s updated Water Quality Assessment, which is required by the federal Clean Water Act. The list helps prioritize where a water cleanup plan needs to be developed, calling for investments by communities, local government, state government and industries.

Washington’s leading pollution problems based on fresh water data include elevated temperature, low dissolved oxygen, changes in pH and high levels of bacteria.

Warm water and low oxygen threaten the survival of aquatic life and salmon. Bacteria pollution is a problem for swimmers and for people who enjoy shellfishing. 

“It’s important to note that the list also gives us an indication as to where we are finding success in cleaning up polluted waters,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program.

For example, portions of these rivers are now listed as clean for bacteria pollution:

The updated list is a tool for finding and cleaning up pollution, but it’s not necessarily a broad indicator of the health of Washington’s waters since it only reflects data for roughly 10 percent of the total freshwaters in the state.

Washington has nearly 74,000 miles of rivers and streams, more than 4,000 lakes, and roughly 3,000 square miles of marine estuaries. Of the 10 percent of these waters where we have data, the assessment shows:

Along with updated data, Ecology is changing how it maps rivers, lakes and streams. It will move from a land-based system involving township/range/section boundaries to a water-based system that uses tributaries or water confluences as boundaries. The mapping change is more scientific and helps Washington be consistent with how other states map assessed waters.

Review the proposed Water Quality Assessment
Ecology will hold public meetings about the Water Quality Assessment from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. on:

Visit Ecology’s website to submit comments and to access the online database.

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Contact:

Sandy Howard, communications manager, sandy.howard@ecy.wa.gov, 360-407-6408, @ecologyWA