Water Quality Improvement Project
Nisqually River Basin Area:
Fecal Coliform

Introduction

The Nisqually basin covers 761 square miles within the greater Puget Sound watershed in Washington State. The basin includes portions of Thurston, Pierce, and Lewis counties. The Nisqually River is formed from the melt waters of the Nisqually and other glaciers on Mount Rainier. From the headwaters to the Nisqually River's discharge to Puget Sound, the river is approximately 78 miles long. Two dams in the upper Nisqually River watershed regulate river flow for electrical power generation for the city of Tacoma.

Water quality issues

The Nisqually River, Nisqually Reach, and Ohop Creek were on the 1996 303(d) list of waterbodies that do not meet water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria. McAllister Creek was included on 1998 303(d) list for fecal coliform bacteria and dissolved oxygen. In addition, review of historical data on Red Salmon Creek, a tributary to Nisqually Reach, showed that Red Salmon Creek does not meet water quality standards for fecal coliform.

Why this matters

Dissolved oxygen is oxygen dissolved in water which fish and aquatic life “breathe” to survive. As air or water moves past an animal’s breathing apparatus (gills or lungs), oxygen is transferred to its blood. It is critical to maintain an adequate amount of oxygen in the water so this transfer can take place efficiently. In addition to being required by aquatic organisms for respiration, oxygen is necessary to help decompose organic matter in the water and bottom sediments. It also is necessary for other biological and chemical processes.

Fecal coliform is a type of “bacteria” common in human and animal waste. It indicates that sewage or manure is entering a water body. As the level of fecal coliform increases, the risk of people getting sick from playing or working in the water increases. 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. Properly collect, bag, and trash dog poop. Check your on-site sewage system to make sure it is maintained and working properly. Ensure livestock and manure are kept away from the water.

Status of the project

Ecology conducted a TMDL study in the Nisqually watershed from March 2002 through September 2003. Low dissolved oxygen levels found in McAllister Creek were determined to be due mainly to natural conditions. However, it is possible that high nutrient levels in the creek may be contributing to excessive plant growth and associated lower dissolved oxygen levels.

Monitoring results showed that the Nisqually River and most of the Nisqually Reach met fecal coliform water quality standards and showed improving trends. Therefore, no load reductions were recommended. However, monitoring results showed several sites on Ohop Creek, Red Salmon Creek, and McAllister Creek did not meet state fecal coliform water quality standards and load reductions were necessary.

The Nisqually Watershed Bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan): Submittal Report was submitted to EPA for approval. EPA approved the TMDL in August 2005. Then the Implementation Plan was completed and sent to EPA. The goal of the Nisqually Fecal Coliform Implementation Plan is to reduce the amount of fecal coliform and nutrients reaching the water bodies located in this watershed that exceed state water quality standards for fecal coliform and dissolved oxygen.

Technical information

Unless otherwise specified, the following are Ecology publications.

Document Type Pollutant Title Publication #
TMDL Reports Fecal Coliform Bacteria
Dissolved Oxygen
Nisqually Watershed Bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan): Submittal Report https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0510040.html
Implementation Plan (WQIP) Fecal Coliform Bacteria
Dissolved Oxygen
Nisqually River Basin Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Implementation Plan https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0710016.html
TMDL Study Fecal Coliform Bacteria
Dissolved Oxygen
Nisqually River Basin Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen Total Maximum Daily Load Study https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0503002.html
Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) Fecal Coliform Bacteria Quality Assurance Project Plan: Henderson and Nisqually TMDL Study https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0303100.htm
Fecal Coliform Bacteria
Dissolved Oxygen
Quality Assurance Project Plan: McAllister Creek Source Identification: Water Quality Monitoring for Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Nitrate+Nitrite-N in Medicine Creek https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0710105.html
Follow-up Studies Fecal Coliform Bacteria McAllister Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria Monitoring Summer 2009 https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0910094.html
Fecal Coliform Bacteria
Nitrate + Nitrite-Nitrogen
Medicine Creek Water Quality Monitoring for Fecal Coliform Bacteria and Nitrate + Nitrite-Nitrogen (2007-2008 wet season) https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/0910083.html

Related information

WRIA 11: Nisqually Watershed Information (Water web site)
www.ecy.wa.gov/water/wria/11.html

 

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Last updated March 2016
  Map for water resource inventory area (WRIA) 11, Washington State.

PROJECT INFO

Location:
WRIA: #11 (Nisqually)
Counties:
Lewis
Pierce
Thurston
 

Water-body Name:
Nisqually River

Parameter:
Fecal Coliform Bacteria

# of TMDLs: 8

Status:
Approved by EPA
Has an implementation plan

Contact Info:
Donovan Gray
Phone: 360-407-6407
Email: Donovan.Gray@ecy.wa.gov

Southwest Region
Department of Ecology
P.O. Box 47775
Olympia, WA 98504-7775