Water Quality Improvement Project
Snohomish River Tributaries Area:
The study area
for this water quality improvement project included the Quilceda, Allen, Woods Creek, French Creek, Marshlands, and
Pilchuck River watersheds, which drain 244 square miles of land into the mainstem
Snohomish River. These streams provide important fish habitat and
Water quality issues
Pollution in the Snohomish tributary streams comes from thousands of sources.
Some are easily identified by the presence of a pipe; we call these point
sources. Stormwater pipes and ditches that take water from local roads is an
example of point source pollution. Other pollution problems are dispersed
throughout the landscape and are harder to find and fix. We call these non-point pollution
sources. These nonpoint sources can
contribute a variety of pollutants that may come from failing septic systems;
improperly managed livestock and pet wastes; runoff from at-home car washing;
excessive use of lawn and garden chemicals; leaky
machinery; and other daily activities. Some of these non-point sources discharge
fecal coliform bacterial pollution. Fecal coliform bacteria indicate the presence of fecal wastes
from warm-blooded animals. When fecal bacteria levels are high, our risk
of becoming ill after swimming or wading increases.
Ecology confirmed that high levels of fecal
coliform bacteria exist in the lower Snohomish tributaries.
Why this matters
Fecal coliform is a type of bacteria common in human and
animal waste. High levels of these bacteria show us people are more
likely to become sick after recreational activities in the water, or
after eating local shellfish. 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
People can help keep bacteria out of the water. Two things you can do are 1)
properly collect, bag, and
trash dog poop, and 2) check your on-site sewage system to make sure it is maintained
and working properly.
What is being done
Many people are working to reduce bacterial pollution in the Snohomish
Tributaries TMDL area. Ecology helped fund several major projects with the
Snohomish Conservation District, Snohomish County, and the Adopt-A-Stream
Foundation. Ecology also issued new stormwater management permits to Snohomish
County and the cities of Arlington, Everett, Lake Stevens, Marysville,
Snohomish, and Monroe in 2007. These permits require action to reduce pollutants
in local waters. In the future, Ecology will perform a formal
effectiveness monitoring study for the Lower Snohomish Tributaries Fecal
Coliform TMDL to determine if our efforts to reduce bacteria levels have been
successful. Until that study is undertaken, we will provide periodic updates on
state and local efforts to improve water quality in the Snohomish Tributaries
Fall 2008 Quilceda/Allen Watershed Update
How you can help
Residents can do many things to reduce the amount of pollution reaching
water bodies and to improve water quality. Here are some ways that you can
- Be responsible for proper septic tank maintenance or repair. If you
have questions about your on-site septic system (exactly
where it is located, how to maintain it), you can contact the
Snohomish Health District for technical assistance.
- If you own a farm (or just a horse or two!), contact the
District to see how their free services can make your livestock healthier and happier
while also protecting your local stream! Farmers and others that raise
livestock (horses, cows, cattle, llamas, etc.) can also visit the “Better
Ground” website to see videos and get more great information on caring
for livestock and small animals. If you live near a stream or ditch, the
Snohomish Conservation District may be able pay for 75% of the cost of
improvements to your farm to help protect local water quality.
- Keep pet and other animal wastes out of your local streams.
yourself on the need to control pet waste and
how to do it. Encourage
your local government to install pet waste collection stations where they
- Use landscaping methods that eliminate or reduce fertilizers and
pesticides. If fertilizers are needed, organic products break down more
slowly and help prevent big flushes of pollution when we have heavy rains;
they also improve soil structure.
- Wash vehicles on lawns or take them to a commercial car wash (remember that virtually all storm drains in
Snohomish County go to a local stream, not to a sewage treatment plant).
- Join local volunteers in planting trees and performing other activities
that help local streams. Trees and wooded areas next to all streams
help filter out pollutants, improve water oxygen levels (good for the
fish!), and do a host of other good things. The
Solutions (formerly Stilly/Snohomish
and Adopt-a-Stream Foundation work to improve water quality by helping with
stream restoration activities. They can help you to plant trees on your
property to help water quality (you can also volunteer to plant trees in
other areas that need help too).
- Get involved in your local government’s programs. Folks interested in
sampling their local waters can contact
Snohomish County or
to explore the availability of volunteer monitoring opportunities or review
their stormwater management plan. If you are a teacher, visit Snohomish County’s webpage to see if the any
of the “Water
Lessons for Snohomish County Students” can be integrated into your class
work. These 13 lesson plans are coordinated by Snohomish County and
Snohomish Conservation District staff.
- Share your ideas with others. Let local elected officials know your wishes
to improve water quality and fish habitat and your ideas for clean local
streams. Make sure you let them know that clean water is important to you.
Because they deal with so many important issues in trying to provide for the
needs of their local citizens, they need to hear from you so they know that
this is one of your priorities.
Unless otherwise specified, the following documents are Ecology publications.
Water Quality Assessment of Tributaries
to the Snohomish River and Nonpoint Source Pollution TMDL
Snohomish River Tributaries Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load Submittal
Lower Snohomish river Tributaries Fecal Coliform Bacterial Total Maximum
Daily Load: Detailed Implementation Plan
Pet Waste Management Tools:
Other Information Resources:
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WRIA: #7 (Snohomish)
# of TMDLs: 6
TMDL approved by EPA
Has an implementation plan
Department of Ecology
3190 - 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452