Friday, March 4, 2016

Investigation underway into Padden Creek sewage spill

Last week, an unfortunate sewage spill occurred at Padden Creek in Bellingham. While doing construction work, a city of Bellingham contractor mistakenly rerouted a sewage line to a stormwater line that discharges to Padden Creek. An Ecology Washington Conservation Corps crew spotted and reported the spill on Feb. 25, while working in the area.  
Recently restored Padden Creek in Bellingham

The city and contractor corrected the misconnection, and the city and Whatcom County Health Department issued public notices about the incident. The city is providing updates on the cleanup efforts.

This sewage spill was especially concerning for many people in the community who follow or are involved in the restoration of Padden Creek. We have received calls and emails from people who are disheartened by the spill and want to know what we’re doing as a result.

We are conducting a full investigation of the spill, and the city’s contractors are cooperating with us. Staff in our Bellingham office are working to understand how exactly the spill occurred and what needs to happen to prevent similar errors in the future.

Sewer misconnections are just one example of the many challenges that hamper our community’s efforts to prevent fecal contamination from entering our lakes, creeks and bays. Other examples include failing septic systems and animal waste. That’s why the state has provided grants to cities to sleuth out such misconnections. Across Washington, communities are mapping their stormwater systems and sometimes finding that mistakes, particularly in historic parts of town. And this is just one slice of the work needed.

Ecology will continue to follow up on the Padden Creek spill, and we’ll keep you informed as we do. Meanwhile, everyone can continue to help our waters, from contractors to farmers, homeowners and pet owners. We need to work closely with the city’s public works department, manage our animal and pet waste, and make sure our septic systems are properly maintained. With renewed attention, continued collaboration, and compliance action when needed, our community can better protect human health and the environment.  Let us know if you have concerns, or ideas on how to help.

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