Water Quality Improvement Project
Gibbons Creek is located in eastern Clark County and flows into the Columbia
River just east of the city of Washougal. Land use consists of small farms in
the upper part of the watershed and subdivisions, a school, and a golf course in
the lower part of the watershed. Many of the older homes in the Gibbons Creek
basin have on-site disposal systems (septic systems). There are no known point
sources of water pollution within the watershed. (See
map. Map courtesy of Clark County Clean Water Program.)
Water quality issues
Based on fecal coliform data collected at one location in Gibbons Creek
during 1991 and 1992, the creek was included on the 1996 303(d) list, the first
comprehensive listing of impaired surface waters in the state. In 1994 and 1995,
Ecology collected additional data at six locations on Gibbons Creek, Campen
Creek and two unnamed tributaries to Gibbons Creek. Those data also showed fecal
coliform impairments. In August 2000 Ecology prepared and submitted a TMDL report to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency that calculates the amount of
pollution reduction necessary to bring Gibbons Creek into compliance with water
quality standards. The subsequent August 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan
outlines pollution control measures and reduction targets anticipated to improve
water quality in the Gibbons Creek watershed. Control measures focus on:
- Reducing the amount of animal waste entering the creek.
- Locating and
eliminating sources of human fecal coliform contamination.
Status of the project
Even before completing the 2005 Detailed Implementation Plan stakeholders,
including the city of Washougal, Clark County, and Clark Conservation District,
began trying to identify the sources of fecal coliform in the Gibbons Creek
watershed. Stakeholders also instituted a 3-year monitoring project to help
determine if conditions were improving, getting worse or staying the same over
In July 2007 stakeholders held an adaptive management meeting to discuss
accomplishments and ongoing activities. Although the agencies focused a lot
of time and energy on identifying the source(s) of fecal coliform, the answer is
In a second adaptive management meeting, held in April 2008, stakeholders
described results of activities completed since the July 2007 meeting. Over the
next three years, Clark County’s new septic system inspection and maintenance
regulations will help the health department identify septic system contributions
to fecal coliform in the watershed. Livestock surveys throughout the watershed
and stormwater outfall survey/sampling outside the Washougal city limits found no
obvious sources of high fecal coliform contamination. The group recommended, as
a next step, completion of the stormwater outfall survey and sampling inside
In summer 2008, outfall survey and sampling was conducted within the Washougal
city limits. The sampling detected high fecal coliform concentrations in a
branch of Campen Creek. Extensive stream monitoring and sewer system dye testing
during the fall showed that the source of pollution was a raccoon latrine
(toilet) beside the creek. In spring 2009, follow-up stream monitoring confirmed
that the raccoon latrine was still in use and continuing to create water quality
problems. During the April 2009 adaptive management meeting stakeholders
discussed implementation activities in the watershed in the past year. They then
developed a multi-tiered plan to try to address the raccoon fecal coliform
issue. The first step included removing the latrine and enlisting the help of
landowners near the creek to discourage raccoons from living in the
City of Washougal Public Works staff removed the raccoon latrine on Campen
Creek in December 2009. In January 2010 the city hired a pest management
specialist and removed the top 3-4 inches of soil around the tree and latrine.
In the summer of 2010, results from follow-up monitoring showed very low
In April 2011, stakeholders
discussed the progress on the pollution control measures identified in the
implementation plan. The progress prompted the Department of Ecology’s
Environmental Assessment Program to monitor the creek monthly from October 2011
through September 2012 to see if Water Quality Standards were being met.
In 2013, Ecology published the results of the
Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Post-TMDL Water Quality Monitoring Report.
Reductions in FC concentrations were observed at all monitoring stations in the
watershed. Despite these reductions, Gibbons and Campen Creeks continue to
exceed (not meet) one or both of the water quality criteria for FC, although
substantial progress has been made.
Ecology and stakeholders will use the results of the 2013 study to fine tune
future implementation efforts.
Fecal coliform bacteria from human and animal waste can make people sick.
Bacteria can get into our waters from untreated or partially treated discharges
from wastewater treatment plants, from improperly functioning septic systems,
and from livestock, pets and wildlife.
People can help keep bacteria out of the water. Bag and trash dog poop. Check
your on-site sewage system to make sure it is maintained and working properly.
Fence livestock out of streams and use manure management practices that protect
Unless otherwise specified the following documents are Ecology publications.
303(d) Listings (website)
Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load Assessment
Gibbons Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load Submittal Report
Gibbons Creek Watershed Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan) Detailed Implementation Plan
Report on July 2007 Adaptive Management Meeting
Report on April 2008 Adaptive Management Meeting
Reports from Clark County Clean Water Program Volunteer Monitoring
Reports from Clark County Public Health on Gibbons Creek TMDL Implementation Project
Report from Clark Conservation District on the Clark County Regional Livestock Inventory
Report on April 2009 Adaptive Management Meeting
Report on May 2011 Adaptive Management Meeting
Gibbons Creek Fecal Coliform Post-TMDL Water Quality Monitoring Report
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