Water Quality Improvement Project
Bellingham Bay is an urban bay located in the city of Bellingham in
northwest Washington State. The bay is important for navigation,
commerce, and recreation in the region.
Water quality issues
Bellingham Bay was put on the 1998 303(d) list for contaminated sediments.
Studies show that the presence of contaminated sediments in inner Bellingham Bay
is due to historical industrial practices.
Sediment sampling in Bellingham Bay found mercury and other contaminants
exceeding levels allowed by the state sediment standards in several areas of the
bay. Those areas were subsequently placed on the 303(d) list of areas with
Why this matters
Like many urban bays in Puget Sound, contaminated marine sediments are a
legacy of past industrial practices that can pose a present threat to marine
life and public health. Contaminated marine sediments are a problem
because sediments collect contamination from the water column. These
contaminants can be transferred to aquatic life and then potentially to humans
through the food chain.
Status of the project
For several years, the
Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot Work Group pursued a
comprehensive approach to the contaminated sediment problems in Bellingham Bay.
The Pilot Work Group is made up of 15 federal, state and local entities charged with
addressing and coordinating contaminated sediment cleanup needs and other key
management issues. The purpose of the Pilot Project is to expand opportunities for
achieving multiple goals in Bellingham Bay beyond sediment cleanup and sediment
disposal, including source control, habitat restoration, and aquatic land use.
The Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot determined that there are no ongoing
sources of contamination. The focus is on cleaning up the contaminated sediments
caused by historic contamination sources.
© Stephen Curtin, Flickr.
What is being done?
The Department of Ecology developed the inner Bellingham Bay contaminated
sediment TMDL to bring the bay's sediment quality into compliance with
Washington State's water quality standards. Source control and monitoring
activities are used to verify predictions about whether stormwater sources cause
sediment contamination or recontamination. The TMDL does not address the inner
Bellingham Bay water column impairments on the 303(d) list (fecal coliform and
EPA approved the TMDL on December 31, 2001. Ecology, along with stakeholders
in the area, developed an implementation plan. A copy was provided to EPA in
The cleanup of existing contaminated sediments is conducted under the
authority of the Model Toxics Control Act cleanup regulation (MTCA; Chapter
173-340 WAC), as implemented by Ecology.
Inner Bellingham Bay Contaminated Sediments Total Maximum Daily Load -- Submittal Report (Ecology Publication)
Inner Bellingham Bay Contaminated Sediments TMDL - Detailed Implementation
Plan (Ecology Publication)
Toxics Cleanup Program's (TCP) Bellingham Bay website
WRIA 01: Nooksack Watershed Information (Water website)
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