Ecology to continue testing Skykomish River for bacteria

Although the numbers have gone down, water samples taken from the Skykomish River near Sultan continue to test positive for the bacterial contaminant, fecal coliform. Nonorganic pollutants known as surfactants are also still present.

The samples were taken from the Skykomish River at Dyer Road, which is located east of the confluence of the Sultan and Skykomish rivers.-á

Sultan resident Gerry Gibson started sampling water from the river on Tuesday, Aug. 11, after he and other residents of the Dyer Road area became concerned about a sudsy-looking substance that had been appearing on the river's surface every morning and sometimes in the evening. Gibson said, having difficultly locating an agency to take ownership of the problem, he took the water to be tested at Am Test Laboratories in Kirkland and foot the bill himself.

The tests were positive for nonorganic pollutants known as surfactants, which were present in the water sample at a rate of .260 milligrams per liter. Fecal coliform was discovered at a level of 1900 Colony Forming Units (CFU) per 100 milliliters.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), fecal coliform is "an indicator of bacterial contamination from human and other warm-blooded animals.GÇ¥ The live organism is commonly found in feces from livestock, wildlife, pets and people, and can contain illness-causing pathogens. Failing septic systems can cause excessive levels of fecal coliform.

Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-201A dictates levels of fecal coliform in fresh water should not exceed 200 CFU where there is primary recreational contact like swimming.

Surfactants are a nonorganic contaminant caused by chemicals frequently found in laundry detergents and cleaning products, and are often present in septic system effluent ' the waste that is commonly discharged into a waterway.

The DOE responded to Gibson's residence to collect its own samples for testing on Sept. 1. According to Gibson, the DOE's results indicated much lower levels of fecal coliform ' with numbers ranging from 100-200 CFU. They did not test for surfactants.

Gibson also collected more of his own samples on Sept. 1, and returned them to Am Test Laboratories in Kirkland for further analysis. A sample taken from the surface of the river indicated fecal coliform presence at a rate of 200 CFU per 100 milliliters, while a sample taken from beneath the surface indicated fecal coliform at a rate of 540 CFU per 100 milliliters, Gibson reported.-á

Surfactants were present in both samples. Gibson reported the surface water had surfactants at a rate of .074 milligrams per liter, and the underwater sample had surfactants at a rate of .067 milligrams per liter.

Gibson said he is concerned about salmon beginning to make their way up the river to spawn and swimming in the polluted waters. He has continued to observe the soapy foam and other pollutants coming downstream each morning, and has not been able to identify the source. Gibson said he hopes to get the Tulalip Tribes involved in the process, along with the DOE and local law enforcement.

WAC stipulates that a series of tests be performed once high levels of pollutants like fecal coliform are identified. The DOE will be back to Gibson's property on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to collect more samples.-á

Photo courtesy of Gerry Gibson Sultan resident Gerry Gibson observed pink salmon jumping amidst the white soapy patches floating on the riverGÇÖs surface on Saturday, Sept. 12. The Washington State Department of Ecology will return to Sultan on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to take more water samples.


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