Water Quality Improvement Projects
North Creek Watershed
North Creek is polluted with fecal coliform bacteria and needs your
help. Fecal coliform bacteria, found in the waste of warm-blooded
animals, is a major concern in the creek because it indicates that
people may be exposed to a variety of harmful bacteria and viruses.
Ecology developed the North Creek Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily
Load Detailed Implementation Plan (Action Plan) to help explain the
bacteria pollution problem and point out solutions to get these waters
The North Creek watershed drains approximately 30 square miles and discharges
to the Sammamish River. The seven smaller watersheds that make up the North
Creek watershed include the Silver Lake; Penny; Nickel; Silver; Tambark; Sulphur
Springs; and Mainstem subbasins (see
North Creek is classified as an extraordinary primary contact waterbody in
Washington’s Water Quality Standards. Streams like North Creek should be
suitable for a wide variety of uses including water supply; stock watering; fish
migration, rearing, spawning, harvest; wildlife habitat; and recreation
(swimming, fishing, and aesthetic enjoyment).
Cleaning up North Creek will be a challenge, but it can be done.
Water quality issues
Pollution in the North Creek watershed comes from thousands of
sources that may not have clearly-identifiable emission points. This
category of pollution is called non-point pollution. These non-point
sources can contribute a variety of pollutants that may come from
failing septic systems; livestock and pet wastes; at-home car washing;
lawn and garden care; leaky machinery; and other daily activities. Some
of these non-point sources create fecal coliform bacterial pollution
that indicate the presence of fecal wastes from warm-blooded animals and
Ecology has confirmed that high levels of fecal coliform bacteria exist
in North Creek.
Although wildlife contribute to bacteria pollution in North Creek, the
majority of the problem occurs because of human activities. The way we do
things, not the activities themselves, are typically the problem. For
example, having dogs, cats, horses, and other animals as part of our life is not
a problem; rather, it is the way that we care for these animals. Similarly,
roads and parking lots are a necessity in modern society, but the way we
build roads, neighborhoods, and shopping centers causes our local streams
and creeks to be polluted. There are solutions that can be undertaken by local
governments, businesses, organizations, and citizens to solve the problem. These solutions are discussed in the Action Plan.
Why this matters
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.
Although North Creek is a relatively small urban stream, there are many
places in the watershed where children can play and be exposed to polluted
water. In addition, North Creek ultimately flows into Lake Washington, which is
an important recreational area during summer months.
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.
Report problems to your local government if you see a likely pollution source
that can be fixed.
Status of the project
In June 2001, Ecology prepared its initial report, a
total maximum daily load (TMDL) on North Creek’s high fecal coliform
levels. In 2002 we submitted it to EPA for approval. During
2003 we worked with local governments to discuss solutions and published a
detailed implementation plan (Action Plan).
All of the local governments in the watershed have been working to resolve
the bacterial pollution problems in North Creek as part of their NPDES Municipal Stormwater Programs. They are mapping and cleaning their stormwater systems,
installing pet waste stations, educating the public, monitoring bacteria levels
in local streams, and looking for sources of bacteria as part of their illicit
discharge detection efforts. You can learn more about the programs at each city,
and in unincorporated Snohomish County, by visiting their websites and reading
their Bacteria Pollution Control Plans and Stormwater Management Plans.
Watershed: Total Maximum Daily Load Evaluation for Fecal Coliform
Bacteria (Ecology publication)
North Creek Fecal Coliform Total
Maximum Daily Load Submittal Report (Ecology publication)
North Creek Fecal Coliform Bacteria Total
Maximum Daily Load: Detailed Implementation Plan (WQIP) (Ecology publication)
Focus on North Creek Water Quality Action Plan (Ecology publication)
WRIA 8: Cedar/Sammamish Watershed Information (Environmental Assessment
City of Everett Surface Water/Stormwater Program
City of Bothell
City of Mill Creek
Snohomish County Surface Water Management:
Sound Salmon Solutions
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