Water Quality Improvement Projects
Swamp Creek Watershed
Swamp Creek is polluted with fecal coliform bacteria and needs your
Fecal coliform bacteria, found in the waste of warm-blooded
animals and humans, 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 Swamp Creek Water Quality Improvement Plan to help
explain the bacteria pollution problem and point out solutions to get
these waters clean again.
The Swamp Creek watershed spans about 12 miles in length from top to bottom.
Starting just below State Highway 526 in Everett, the mainstem of the creek winds 14
miles through the watershed before it flows into the Sammamish River. Scriber
Creek, Little Swamp Creek, and Martha Creek are the largest of the 19 tributaries to Swamp Creek. Major lakes include Scriber Lake, Martha Lake, and
Swamp Creek is classified as an extraordinary primary contact waterbody in
Washington’s Water Quality Standards. Streams like Swamp Creek should be
suitable for a wide variety of uses, including water supply; stock watering; fish
migration, rearing, spawning, and harvest; wildlife habitat; and recreation
(swimming, fishing, and aesthetic enjoyment).
Water quality issues
Pollution in the Swamp 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
has confirmed that high levels of fecal coliform bacteria exist in Swamp
Although wildlife contribute to bacteria pollution in Swamp 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 of our 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 Swamp Creek Water Quality Improvement 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 Swamp Creek is a relatively small urban stream, there are several
lakes and many small locations along the mainstem where children can play and be
exposed to polluted water. In addition, Swamp Creek ultimately flows into Lake
Washington, which is an important recreational area during the summer months.
Status of the project
During 2005-6, Ecology worked with local governments to discuss the creek’s
high bacteria levels and solutions for getting it cleaned up. A technical
study and detailed implementation plan were published in 2006. The Technical
Information section of this webpage contains a link to this document.
All of the local governments in the watershed have been working to resolve
the bacterial pollution problems in Swamp 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. Links to
their websites are provided below.
Ecology has funded several special projects to help clean up Swamp Creek. In
2007, grants were awarded to both the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation (AASF) and the
Snohomish Conservation District. The AASF finished their outreach campaign by
reaching out to 829 streamside landowners. They knocked on the doors of 440
properties to provide on-the-spot education and assistance to landowners, held
numerous workshops, collected water quality data, restored 3,202 linear feet of
riparian zone using 4,603 native plants, and installed 90 conifer logs and root
wads to form 23 large woody debris structures. The Snohomish Conservation
District is just now completing their project working with selected schools in
Ecology has been conducting targeted water quality monitoring in Swamp Creek
in order to locate bacteria pollution sources. One problem was found in Little
Swamp Creek at the Country Village Shopping Center where large numbers of
waterfowl, chickens, and crows are contributing large amounts of bacteria to the
creek. Country Village has been working with the city of Bothell to educate
visitors and discourage the feeding of the birds. Right now, Ecology evaluating
bacteria levels in Golde Creek and lower Scriber Creek.
Citizens are also involved in sharing information on the health of Little
Swamp Creek. If you live in that part of the watershed, you may be interested in
visiting the Little
Swamp Creek blog webpage!
Swamp Creek Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load: Water Quality Improvement Report and Implementation Plan
WRIA 8: Cedar-Sammamish Watershed Information (Water web site)
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WRIA: #8 (Cedar/Sammamish)
Swamp Creek watershed
Fecal coliform bacteria
# of TMDLs: 3
Fecal Coliform TMDL - approved by EPA.
Has implementation plan
Department of Ecology
3190 - 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452