A torrent of sunshine and temperatures in the ’70s have spurred marine algae blooms across the Puget Sound, including Sinclair Inlet.The Washington Depart of Ecology has noticed a number of blooms, the visible appearance of millions of tiny plant-like organisms in the water, in Sinclair Inlet. The blooms often appear as brown or green sludge at or near the surface of the water.
Blooms are naturally occurring and common in sunny weather, but the DOE is monitoring the blooms closely as a way to monitor the health of the local waterway.
“Blooms are a totally normal process,” said Dr. Christopher Krembs, a scientist with DOE. “When we have them in excess and high concentrations, that’s what we watch for.”
Krembs said the the DOE watches the Sinclair Inlet with the DOE’s new Eyes Over Puget Sound, a program where DOE scientists fly over Puget Sound to visually spot algae blooms.
Since the inlet is a heavily populated terminal bay — a bay that has a narrow entrance — it doesn’t cycle water in and out as fast as other systems in Puget Sound. The inlet has perfect conditions for large algae blooms which, if too large, can affect juvenile fish and other aquatic life that live in the Inlet, according to Krembs
“A lot of species can’t do with do with a concentration (of algea blooms) that is too high,” Krembs said. The Eyes Over Puget Sound study will help determine to what degree human pollution affects algae blooms. Nutrients that get into the waters feed algae, and fertilizers and polluted runoffs can stimulate negative algae growth.
Sandy Howard, a DOE spokesperson, said people living on or near Sinclair Inlet should try to reduce lawn fertilizers, empty septic tanks and refrain from washing their cars near a storm drain in an effort to keep negative toxins from seeping into the Inlet. Steve Slaton, the Director of Marine Facilities with the Port of Bremerton, said algae blooms in local waters have little affect on the marina or boats. He said sometimes people see the blooms and think they are an oil spill, and that he fields a lot of calls during the algae bloom season. “People don’t understand what’s going on and they report it to us as a spill,” he said.
Krembs said algae blooms can stink up area beaches.He also said the marine blooms in the Sinclair Inlet are harmful to people if ingested.The public can report any suspected algae bloom in the state as a way to help monitor blooms by visiting the DOE’s website, or by calling 1-800-OILS-911.