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State ecology dept. taps Liberty Bay for study

The Department of Ecology is planning a 13-month study of Liberty Bay to begin late this summer. - File Photo
The Department of Ecology is planning a 13-month study of Liberty Bay to begin late this summer.
— image credit: File Photo

POULSBO — Liberty Bay has received its fair share of attention recently — in a positive way.

The Department of Ecology will focus some of its resources on the bay this summer. The DOE will conduct research designed to span more than a year. It plans to assess the types of pollution found in the bay and track where it’s coming from.

The study flows in conjunction with the Clean Water Act, which mandates states develop and prioritize lists of impaired waters too polluted to meet water standards and then create Total Maximum Daily Load (TDML) calculations for the amount of pollutant those waters can receive while meeting standards.

TDML lead Sally Lawrence, who works with the state’s water quality program in Bellevue, said the program is meant to improve water quality of pinpointed streams, lakes and rivers throughout the state. Liberty Bay, which has seen a handful of sewage spills in recent years, suffers bacteria pollution.

“Liberty Bay has been on our radar for a while,” she said.

The DOE will work with county and city agencies on the study, which entails taking samples twice each month for up to 13 months, so that even problems due to seasonal change can be tagged. An example, she said, would be storm water runoff, which can often contribute to pollution. While summer months don’t see much rain, winter often ups the amount discharged.

Lawrence said the DOE plans to also provide education to boat owners regarding the proper unloading of waste, a key facet in Liberty Bay because of its many marinas.

Bacteria can also result from natural sources, such as ducks and seagulls.

“Sometimes the way we humans use the land ends up creating a bit of a problem in attracting wildlife,” Lawrence said.

While they won’t have answers until the study is complete, Lawrence expects to find pollution sources in storm water systems, marinas and failing septic systems. The Kitsap County Health District is focusing on the latter. It will conduct a survey of bayside homes to determine failing systems and reduce fecal coliform contamination in 2009 and 2010.

Lawrence said there has also been some interest in restoring the bay to open parts for shellfish harvesting.

Liberty Bay Foundation Executive Director Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes said the recent convergence on the bay is an opportunity — not a punishment — to continue an awareness among government and citizens. It’s an awareness that’s already begun to spread.

“I think that people are more aware of the issues we have,” she said. “I just hope that they have the initiative to do something.”

The DOE study, she said, is a chance to make a difference in the pollution Poulsbo’s nearby waters retain. And while storm water is still a contribution, that difference can best be made by both area leaders and citizens pitching in to take care of the natural resource.

“It’s a two-way street,” she said. “We really do need to work together.”

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