Whatcom Clean Water Program
While people in Whatcom County, WA, value clean water, many don’t know that creeks flowing through their neighborhoods and eventually to coastal bays don’t meet water quality standards because they are polluted with fecal coliform bacteria.
Fecal coliform bacteria are found in human and animal waste (feces). People can get sick after coming into contact with water polluted with fecal coliform bacteria, either from exposure to sewage and animal waste, from direct contact with polluted water, or from eating contaminated shellfish.
A concerted effort is being put forth to reduce the amount of bacteria that is getting into our local waterways. Representatives from local, state, and federal agencies are working with residents and landowners to identify and eliminate sources of fecal coliform bacteria pollution.
In rural areas, water can get polluted with bacteria in several ways:
Focusing on the Bertrand Creek watershed
Our initial focus area for reducing bacteria pollution is the Bertrand Creek watershed, which is in north Whatcom County near Lynden.
A watershed is an area of land that drains to the lowest point. McClellan Creek, Duffner Ditch, Jackman Ditch and the north fork and west branch of Bertrand Creek all flow into Bertrand Creek’s main stem. Bertrand Creek is one of the largest creeks that flows into the Nooksack River, and then ultimately drains to Bellingham Bay and Portage Bay.
Declining water quality since 2003
In 2003, after several years of focused water quality improvement efforts, water flowing through Bertrand Creek and into the Nooksack River met state water quality standards.
Since then, though, the levels of bacteria have steadily increased. Today streams in the watershed fail to meet water quality standards.
The program began in spring 2013. Activities include:
Property site visits
Inspectors visit properties based on water quality test results and observed property conditions.
Assistance for property owners
Inspectors can provide information about opportunities for technical assistance and financial assistance.
Focusing on the Drayton Harbor watershed
The Drayton Harbor watershed, located in the northwest corner of Whatcom County, is another priority area for addressing fecal coliform pollution.
Within the larger Drayton Harbor watershed, the Dakota Creek watershed is one of two major areas that drain to Drayton Harbor. Whatcom County Public Works is leading a community solutions effort in the Lower Dakota Creek drainage to identify and address bacteria pollution sources.
The program began in summer 2013. Activities include:
Working together to clean up our water
Every community member can help protect water quality. When we all understand how to prevent fecal coliform pollution to local waters, we can reach our goals of having clean, safe water while respecting landowners and Whatcom County’s agricultural and rural character.
Bertrand Creek monitoring poster (March 20, 2013)
For more information: