October showers bring… more water quality concerns.

April showers bring May flowers’ …

Thus begins a familiar proverb. So, what do October showers bring? In the Nooksack lowlands, all too often our soaking rains act to flush contaminants off surface areas into the River and its tributaries, like Tenmile Creek. Typically, material from the ground, gutters, ditches, paved areas, animal lots, trees, etc gets washed into the creek. Here are some observations lately from our lower Tenmile watershed.

Our regular sample run in October occurred on the 22nd, coinciding with 2.5 inches of rain over 24 hours; and that came after 5 straight days of intermittent showers, which had the river gauge peaking later that day. Nooksack gage 10-22-19The result had our creek running fast, deep and muddy. Lab results for the day confirmed a pattern repeated across the county: many sites reporting excessive levels of fecal bacteria well above water quality standards. (See our other recent post about September results, here.)

Another notable condition that day is reported by our dauntless volunteer out there collecting samples… “An odd anomaly occurs when the Nooksack River reaches a certain level: lower Tenmile Creek flows upstream. This can be observed where the creek flows under the Barrett Road bridge.”
(seen here a previous year, similar conditions)T1 sample site“Upstream, east of the bridge, Barrett Lake lies below the river when it runs high, so during major rain events water flows into Barrett Lake from both the landscape upstream, and the river downstream.” In these conditions, the usual creek sample drawn at the bridge (identified as ‘T1’) will show conditions in the river, not the creek.

Now as a footnote, we must admit there are side-benefits to the often-challenging task of collecting water samples from the creek. For example, in the midst of all the rain & bad news about what’s in the water, the day’s intrepid volunteer reports this:

Any sample day without rain is appreciated, but today is particularly nice.
Sun breaks show on fall colors, with dark purple clouds in the background. sun through cloudsEspecially bright is the crimson foliage
on blueberry fields.
And even though it is super slippery after all the rain, at least I don’t have to deal with spiders everywhere.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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