Dyes Inlet is facing potential restrictions to commercial shellfish harvests, after the Washington State Department of Health recently conducted their annual water quality evaluation.
The restrictions are due in large part to fecal coliform bacteria, which originates in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, according to Scott Berbells, Manager of the Shellfish Growing Area for the Washington State Department of Health. Dyes Inlet has faced these restrictions in the past, including last year when Chico Bay, a part of Dyes Inlet, was closed in August for bacterial pollution.
“[DOH] came up with some marine sampling stations in Dyes Inlet that were a little bit higher and approaching a level where they were concerned about the shellfish and shellfish harvesting,” said Grant Holdcroft, program manager of the Water Pollution Identification & Correction for Kitsap Public Health District. “The assessment noted a couple of stations in Dyes Inlet as being threatened.”
Some of the causes of this bacterial pollution could be septic system failures in the area, wildlife pattern changes or simply dog feces that end up in the bay, causing the sample results to comeback higher than they normally would, Holdcroft said.
“This is what we call nonpoint pollution, which is something you can’t attribute to a specific source,” Holdcroft said. “Our main job is to make nonpoint pollution into point pollution.”
Holdcroft noted that these threats to Dyes Inlet have been a common theme in the past and probably won’t end anytime soon. If a closure occurs, the county will have to develop a closure response plan to develop solutions to clean up the bacteria in the water.
Extra efforts are being put in with water samples being conducted and staff going door-to-door to educate the public on how to keep the waters free of bacteria, Holdcroft explained. He noted that every time a sample comes back with bacteria, they try to trace it back to its origin, whether that be up a stream or in a pipe.
“We can’t do it every time; we don’t find a source every time, but we definitely follow up on it every time,” Holdcroft stated. “I have a lot of concern about Dyes Inlet just because of the density of the homes there. We expect that this is going to be an ongoing issue and we will continue to address them.”
When asked if any of the recent Naval sewage spilling’s had any effect on the water samples, Holdcroft denied that he knew of any ongoing issues, citing that the DOH doesn’t conduct their sampling during sewage spilling because it would skew the results.
Holdcroft also said that until those water samples come up clean over a period of time, the threatened status will remain in place. He also noted that it’s tough to predict if a closure of shellfish harvesting in Dyes Inlet will actually take place.
“It’s kind of hit or miss,” he said. “I’ve seen shellfish areas get reopened after several years and I’ve seen areas that get permanently closed.”
—Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org