Friday, November 17, 2017

Fecal Matters: No Swimming Advisory for Dakwas Park Beach, Neah Bay, Makah Beach Program, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update


On November 17, 2017, the Makah Beach Program issued a no-contact advisory for Dakwas Park Beach in Neah Bay due to high bacteria levels in the water. Staff from the Makah Beach Program will be sampling this beach next week to determine if bacteria levels have dropped.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.


Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog 
Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or 
julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.



Fecal Matters: Front Street Beach, East is CLOSED to Water Contact Recreation, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update


On November 17, 2017, the Makah Beach Program issued a closure to water contact recreation at Front Street Beach, East. This closure was issued due to high levels of fecal bacteria in the water. This beach will be sampled again next week to determine if bacteria levels have decreased. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Comment on Skamania County’s updated shoreline program by Nov. 30

The confluence of the Wind and Columbia rivers in Skamania County. 
In the shadow of Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Skamania County reaches from the Columbia River Gorge north to some of the most remote areas in Washington; in the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Ninety percent of the county’s 1,684 sq. miles is forested. The rest is a mix of small towns, roads, water and shorelines.
Skamania County hosts approximately 581 miles of rivers and creeks, and
166 miles of lake shorelines.

From now through Nov. 30, the Washington Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on proposed changes to Skamania County’s Shoreline Master Program that guides the uses on approximately 581 miles of rivers and creeks, and 166 miles of lake shorelines. In addition to the Columbia River, there are seven other county shorelines of statewide significance, including the Wind, and Little White Salmon Rivers, Spirit Lake, and Swift Reservoir. Additional County shorelines include many tributary streams, creeks, and smaller lakes.

Skamania’s County’s Shoreline Master Program includes updated goals, policies, regulations, environment designations, and administrative provisions that are locally tailored to reflect current conditions and community vision for future shoreline use and development. It hasn’t been revised since 1986.

Spirit Lake is located within the Mount St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument.
The updated master program prioritizes water-oriented uses, habitat protection, public access, and ecological restoration and allows for legal existing uses and structures to continue. Most future shoreline development will occur outside the federal lands that dominate the region, in areas along the SR 14 Evergreen Highway corridor where residential and recreational activities are popular.

The public has until 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, to comment.

After the public comment period ends, Ecology will compare Skamania County's proposed program to the requirements of the Shoreline Management Act and the Shoreline Master Program Guidelines and decide whether to approve the program as is, with recommended changes, or send it back to Skamania County with required changes to meet statutory and rule requirements.

There are three ways to comment and ask questions by contacting the Ecology Shoreline Planner:

Email: michelle.mcconnell@ecy.wa.gov
Call:    360-407-6349
Write: Washington Department of Ecology
            Southwest Regional Office – SEA Program
            Attn: Michelle McConnell
            PO Box 47775
            Olympia, WA 98504-7775

The electronic documents out for public review and comment can be found online.

Paper copies are available for viewing by appointment, at the following locations:

Washington State Department of Ecology’s Southwest Regional Office
300 Desmond Dr.
Lacey, WA 98503
Staff contact: Michelle McConnell
Phone: 360-407-6349
Email: michelle.mcconnell@ecy.wa.gov

Skamania County Department of Community Development
Courthouse Annex
170 NW Vancouver Ave.
Stevenson, WA 98648
Staff contact: Alan Peters
Phone: 509-427-3900
Email: apeters@co.skamania.wa.us

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fecal Matters: Dakwas Park Beach, Neah Bay is OPEN to Water Contact Recreation, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update

November 10, 2017, the Makah BEACH Program has re-opened Dakwas Park Beach to water contact recreation.  Recent water sampling showed that bacteria levels were low and safe for swimming.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Puget Sound Nutrient Watch: The Salish Sea Computer Model

Welcome to our second installment of Puget Sound Nutrient Watch, an ongoing blog series that will focus on the excess nutrient problem in Puget Sound.

In this post we will be focusing on the Salish Sea Model and how scientific computer models help us better understand the world around us.

So...what is a scientific model?

Puget Sound Model built in the 1950's at the University
of Washington School of Oceanography as a research tool
for understanding Puget Sound circulation patterns.
Many children like to play with models — like doll houses, model cars or model airplanes. These toys are simplified versions of things we find in the world around us. These models might seem like they are just amusing toys on the surface, but they actually help you learn how the world works!

Similarly, scientists also use models. Scientists often rely on developing models to establish new science. Models are ideas that scientists use to explain patterns they observe in the world.

computer model replicates some part of the environment in a way that helps us understand and predict potential changes. This allows scientists to ask the model questions like, "If the water temperature goes up three degrees, what happens to everything else?" If you were to change something in the model, it should tell you how changing the same thing in the environment would play out in nature.

Weather forecasting — for example — relies on computer models. Models are built to explain how aspects of the real world work and consist of ideas and concepts. Scientists use models to investigate the secrets of nature!

Characteristics of scientific models

Good scientific models should be:

  • Grounded in scientific principles.
  • Compared to a mechanism that is well understood.
  • Calibrated to actual data so we can have confidence in the outputs.
  • Be able to test if hypotheses are true or false.

New models are more likely to succeed if they dovetail or merge with existing scientific models. In fact — successful models often reveal that phenomena we once thought to be isolated are really connected incidents. Modern models use high-powered computers to compute millions of calculations!

It’s important to remember that a model is not the same as the real thing; they are similar in some respects, but not in all. A model becomes more refined and complex after many, many rounds of testing. Over time, the model looks less like the original simple model, and looks more like the real environment it is simulating.

We have confidence in a model's ability to simulate real life when it produces the same results that we find in actual data. If the model can accurately represent a known condition, we can use it to predict future conditions.

Why are models needed?

The most important advantage of computer modeling is that it gives us the ability to ask “what if?” questions about complex aspects of the world we can’t easily test in reality. Often, the focus of science is too small to be observed directly, or may be inaccessible for a direct visual study. For example, we may not be able to access the center of the earth to study it, but a computer model can give us a pretty good idea of what's happening!

Tidal motion in Salish Sea Model - 72-hour animation of April 2006 conditions.
Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

New scientific discoveries depend upon scientists developing scientific models and interacting with them. Each hypothesis tested, simulation ran, and calibration made helps scientists better understand nature. After all, science is an attempt to explain our natural environment and make predictions about it.

What is the Salish Sea Model?

First of all, this model covers a huge area! The Salish Sea includes the Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Our Environmental Assessment Program and staff from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed the Salish Sea water quality circulation model — called the Salish Sea Model for short — as a tool to broaden our understanding of how nutrients travel and ultimately affect water quality throughout Puget Sound.

We are using the Salish Sea Model to evaluate how current and potential future inputs of nutrients effect dissolved oxygen levels in the Salish Sea.

The Salish Sea model helps us understand questions like:
  • Are human sources of nutrients in and around the Salish Sea significantly impacting water quality now? How bad might it get in the future?
  • Where are the areas that are most sensitive to human impacts? When are those effects the most harmful?
  • How much do we need to reduce human sources of nutrients to protect water quality in the Salish Sea?
Domain of Salish Sea Model.

We will be using the model to test the effects of short- and long-term actions to reduce anthropogenic — or human caused — sources of nutrients. We are aim to use this information to increase Puget Sound’s resilience to the effects of climate change and population growth. These model findings will help decision-makers use resources wisely and guide where additional study or action is necessary.

How have we used the model so far? Check out these publications:



Ask an engineer

We’ve asked one of our Salish Sea modeling engineers — Greg Pelletier — to participate in a Q&A about the Salish Sea Model, learn more from our interview!

What have we begun to learn from the Salish Sea Model?
We are starting to learn about the effect of regional anthropogenic sources of nutrients on changes in dissolved oxygen and acidification of the Salish Sea. We are finding that there are extensive areas of the Salish Sea that do not meet the water quality standards for dissolved oxygen. There are also areas where regional human-caused sources of nutrients appear to decrease dissolved oxygen to levels that do not meet the water quality standards.

How does this model help us understand ocean acidification?
The model allows us to look at how much impact is caused by regional anthropogenic sources and compared them with global sources. For example, in waters at the bottom of Puget Sound, the model predicts that the regional nutrient sources caused by humans has the highest impact when compared with estimates of combined global anthropogenic and nutrient impacts.

The model allows us to look at how much improvement would result from efforts to reduce nutrients to different levels. Also, the model allows us to look at the relationship between hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) and acidification.


Greg Pelletier presenting at the Puget Sound Nutrient Dialogue, July 2017
How long does does it take for us to run a scenario in the model?
The model uses a very powerful “cluster” computer at Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It takes a couple of days for the computer to run all of the calculations for a single year for the original version of the model, and up to three days are required for our latest expanded version of the model.

We call each model run a scenario because it represents a particular set of assumptions. For example, one scenario is the existing conditions as they are in a particular year while another scenario is what we call “reference conditions” with human sources of nutrients removed.

In addition to the computer time, it takes time to make the input files for the model scenario – and to review the input files to assure their quality, which can vary depending on the complexity of a scenario. This step alone can take multiple people and several months.

After the model run is completed, time is required to convert the model output files into visualizations such as maps or animations of the predicted water quality, interpret what they are telling us, and discuss it with project team.

What do you like most about working with models?
The best part about working with models in my job is working with all of the great people we have on our modeling team. Our modeling team from Ecology includes Anise Ahmed, Cristiana Figueroa-Kaminsky, Sheelagh McCarthy, and Teizeen Mohamedali. We also collaborate with several great people from Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Lab. It takes a team of people to do this work.

Different people do different parts of the model analysis. For example, some people work mainly in preparing model input information, while others work more on running the model or preparing the output visualizations. The entire modeling team works together to look at and discuss the model input files and the interpret the output visualizations. It is very rewarding to find out what the model runs tell us about the relationships between nutrient loading sources and changes in water quality throughout the Salish Sea.

Another amazing thing about working with models is its ability to predict water quality in areas where we have no monitoring data. We are confident of these predictions because the model performs well to replicate observed data when we compare it to areas where we have actual water quality measurements. Sometimes the results show us where we need to collect more data.

Puget Sound, Marine Park

Our work to reduce nutrients in Puget Sound

Follow this Puget Sound Nutrient Watch blog series to stay current and learn about our work to reduce nutrients in Puget Sound.

Earlier blogs:


Visit our website and join our email list to get up-to-date information on the nutrient problem in Puget Sound. We want this to be a collaborative effort that brings all of the technical work that is happening on Puget Sound nutrients together. We need all hands on deck to find the best solutions for meeting water quality goals for Puget Sound.

By: Jenny Robertson, Ecology Environmental Specialist

Friday, November 3, 2017

Innovative Regional Septic Loan Program partnership wins EPA and local awards

We’re excited to announce that the innovative Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program developed by Washington state departments of Ecology and Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and Craft3  a non-profit lender — has been deemed exceptional by the 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PISCES program.

EPA’s PISCES  or Performance and Innovation in the State Revolving Fund Creating Environmental Success  celebrates excellence and innovation in clean water infrastructure.

Award winning loan program helps fix leaking septic systems

The EPA selected our Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program as one of five exceptional projects across the country. Our program is a public-private partnership that provides funding for Puget Sound property owners to repair or replace failing septic systems.
“This program has been a great success due to the incredible partnership and collaboration between state agencies, local health jurisdictions, county governments, and Craft3. We all worked together to build a sustainable and efficient solution to help protect public health and water quality while giving homeowners viable financing options.” 
- Jeff Nejedly, Ecology financial assistance 

In addition to the PISCES Award, the Regional Loan Program was honored with the “Creative Solutions” award last week at the Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council (IACC) conference in Wenatchee. The conference gathers communities, infrastructure providers, and funders. IACC aims to improve infrastructure assistance in Washington. The annual awards ceremony celebrates outstanding achievements in public works projects across the state.

269 septic systems fixed during the first year of our program

Our program was incredibly successful in it's first year. It prevented 36 million gallons  equal to 55 Olympic-sized swimming pools  of wastewater from flowing into Puget Sound watershed. It also brought $6.7 million into local communities to repair and maintain septic systems.

Unexpected household expenses can burden any family, and repairing a failing septic system can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Regional Loan Program attempts to lessen that burden  providing affordable financing for septic repair and replacement to homeowners at many different income levels. Roughly 40% of participants in the last year were low-income borrowers.

We help protect public health and water quality

The program uses public funds in a cost-effective way to:
  • Reduce sources of water pollution.
  • Improve and protect shellfish areas and ecosystems.
  • Improve local governments’ ability to focus on water quality priorities.
  • Increase opportunities for property owners unable to qualify for traditional loans.

Roughly a third of Washington households are on septic systems. Well-maintained and functioning septic systems can provide high-quality treatment to household wastewater for many years. Not all septic systems contribute to pollution, but failing septic systems can affect water quality.

Septic systems are only one piece of the clean water puzzle. There are many sources of pollution — such as stormwater runoff, excess nutrients from farms, lawns, and people, agriculture practices, and wastewater treatment facilities. Reducing all sources of water pollution is important to keep Washington waters and communities healthy.

Loan program helps counties provide better service

Our program saves local governments time and money by taking counties out of the lending business. This allows homeowners the ability to go directly to a lender for financial help. By partnering with a non-profit lender like Craft3, counties can focus on providing technical assistance and working with septic professionals to raise awareness.
“Our old program just could not scale up to that kind of volume given our limited staff resources…referring people to Craft3 for septic funding assistance allows us to spend more time helping them with all the permitting details and the technical assistance. 
It has been an incredible burden lifted off of me to know that so many more of our citizens-in-need are being helped with their septic repairs.”  Kathleen Parvin, Island County Public Health

Program expanding to Clark and Cowlitz counties

The program currently covers the Olympic peninsula, coastal counties, and most counties around the Puget Sound. We and our partners are actively working to expand the availability of loans to more of the state.

Once a state Capital Budget is passed, Craft3 can begin offering loans in Clark and Cowlitz Counties. Next fiscal year we plan to offer the program to Eastern Washington counties.


Other wastewater funding opportunities

In addition to the regional septic loan program, We have other funding and loan programs available for public entities like conservation districts and counties.

These programs help individuals repair septic systems, and help communities build and repair larger systems. For example, a community could use these funds to connect a whole neighborhoods to a sewer system and abandon septic systems.

We also give funding to communities to help with pollution identification, outreach and education, planning, and surveys to identify problem areas.

Join this program or apply for a loan

If you are a homeowner with a failing or malfunctioning septic system and are interested in a loan, contact Craft 3 at CleanWater@Craft3.org or 888-231-2170 ext. 125.

If you are a local government interested in this program, contact our Local Loan Program Coordinator Rebecca Brown at rebecca.brown@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6703.

Learn more on our website.


By: Stacy Galleher, Water Quality Communications Specialist and Rebecca Brown, Water Quality Program Financial Assistance

Fecal Matters: Dakwas Park Beach, Neah Bay is CLOSED to Water Contact, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update


On November 3, 2017, the Makah Beach Program issued a closure to water contact recreation at Dakwas Park Beach, Neah Bay. This closure was issued due to high levels of fecal bacteria in the water. This beach will be sampled again next week to determine if bacteria levels have decreased. The public is advised to avoid contact with the water until further notice.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or julianne.ruffner@ecy.wa.gov for questions.