State conservation commission funds project that will trace fecal contamination back to its source

Water samples will be analyzed from Puget Sound shellfish harvest areas

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) has awarded a $200,000 contract to Herrera Environmental Consultants for a project that aims to help solve fecal contamination problems in Washington State.

The project will use microbial source tracking — a technique used to trace fecal contamination back to its source — to identify the most effective actions for reducing concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria that currently impact shellfish harvest areas in South Puget Sound.

The project area includes Rocky Bay, Vaughn Bay, Filucy Bay, and Burley Lagoon. These four embayments are the highest priority sites in Pierce County to restore shellfish harvest for commercial, recreational, and tribal purposes.

Despite past efforts to improve water quality in these areas, concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria have increased in recent years. Consultants will collect water samples and use microbial source tracking to quantify contributions from human and animal (e.g. pets and livestock) sources. The resulting data will inform decisions about the most appropriate methods to reduce fecal contamination, such as repairing septic systems, cleaning up pet waste, and implementing livestock best management practices.

Herrera Environmental Consultants submitted this project in response to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the SCC in March 2018. The purpose of the RFP was to show that microbial source tracking can be used as a tool to improve water quality management and decision-making in Washington State watersheds.

The project will launch in May 2018 and conclude in June 2019.

Project partners include Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Washington State Department of Health, Squaxin Island Tribe, Source Molecular, and the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute.

Please direct questions about this funding award to Karla Heinitz (kheinitz@scc.wa.gov or 360-407-6212).

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