Liberty Bay meets state Department of Ecology standards

Kitsap Public Health
Kitsap Public Health's monitoring stations in Liberty Bay.
— image credit: Kitsap Public Health District / Courtesy

Nearly three years ago, Liberty Bay was not meeting state water quality standards, affecting the health of its marine wildlife and local residents. When the state Department of Ecology began its study of Fecal Coliform bacteria in creeks and streams, or tributaries, leading into Liberty Bay in 2008, the small waterways were able to show where problem areas occurred around Poulsbo.

From the data collected in 2008-2009, and shared with Kitsap Public Health District, Liberty Bay and two of its tributaries, Johnson and Daniels creeks, are now healthy waterways.

“We want to be sure our human health is protected,” said Sally Lawrence, water cleanup lead for Skagit and Kitsap watersheds with the state Department of Ecology. Lawrence said the report both gathers data from other agencies sources, such as Kitsap Public Health District monitoring stations, as well as informs them of problem areas. The Health District is the agency that will follow up and enforce the corrections needed to fix the health of the bay.

The department's draft report, which calculated how many FC organisms flow into the bay per day, was shared with different agencies and the public Jan. 26 at Poulsbo City Hall.

Mayor Becky Erickson said the city has done a lot of work over the last few years to improve the water quality, including using Ecology grants for stormdrain retrofitting projects and raingardens along roadways. However, due to mandates by the state Growth Management Act, she said she's concerned the standards won't be able to be reached in an urban area.

"It's an interesting dance," she said, balancing urban growth with the waterways that run through the city.

Kimberly Jones, head of the Liberty Bay Pollution Identification and Correction project, has been making use of the data since 2009, and the county's efforts are a large part of the reason quality has risen. Health District staff made 684 visits to properties within 100 feet of surface water in the past few years, and 36 septic system failures have been identified as contributing to the bacteria contamination.

Ecology took 26 samples from 37 sites, accounting for seasonal variations. Staff found there was a 50 to 80 percent reduction of FC organisms during the dry summer season. Dogfish and Poulsbo creeks were found to be the worst offenders, accounting for 39 and 20 percent, respectively, of the overall load into the bay. Sources of contamination include livestock manure, stormwater in urban areas and pet waste.

Poulsbo Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist has been following the many water quality studies of Liberty Bay.

"All of us — all of our cars, all of our pets…have an impact on water quality," Berry-Maraist said. "The report highlights the fact [there] isn't a specific place that we can all point our fingers at. It comes down to a big 'us.'"

Now is the opportunity for the public to read and comment on the report, such as pointing out other locations for Ecology or Kitsap Public Health to take samples from.

Comments should be sent by Feb. 7 to Ecology staffer Trevor Swanson at or (360) 407-6685.

For more information on the Ecology report, go to

To see Kitsap Public Health District's 2011 Liberty Bay report, go to


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