What’s in the water? Caution flag is up after high water quality results

After frequent rains in September, water quality results for fecal bacteria were high at multiple sites across the lower Nooksack River, including our Tenmile watershed. Most alarming, these conditions also resulted in higher counts in the marine waters of Portage Bay, which will only make it more difficult to achieve our long-range goal of removing the conditional closure for fall harvest.

And all this comes in spite of heightened awareness before the fall rains to prevent this historical trend; cautions were raised, and continue, by multiple partners in the Whatcom Clean Water Program, including Whatcom County, Whatcom Conservation District, Dept of Ecology & Dept of Agriculture.

Here is a quick reference for the data behind this story and further activities in response:

  • We have increased our own sample schedule in two ways: each month we are repeating the usual 10 sites, 2 weeks after the scheduled date; and at our own discretion, we also collect some ‘source ID’ samples at sites around particular hot spots or during rain events.
  • Find the updated Tenmile data report for September here (pdf download.)
  • Find the September report for the Nooksack River here (pdf download.)
  • The Laurel Watershed Improvement District sent a letter to its members (pdf copy here), which includes a helpful list of ways farmers can avoid contributing to the problem.
  • The Whatcom Clean Water Program has distributed a 3-page reference of ‘fall tips’ for many different stakeholders, including: all types of farm operations; septic system owners; pet owners; watercraft operators; and interactions with wildlife. Download the reference here.

You can contact us here if you have any questions or suggestions. Thanks for doing your part to keep our waters clean!

 

Save the dates! For October & beyond…

save the dateHere is a preview of the many events relevant to our watershed that will be occurring this fall. If you know of others that we missed, let us know so we can include them!

Farm Speaker Series Oct 15: WCD Speaker Series, Farm Funding Opportunities, 6-8pm at the Ferndale WECU. Last year this was reportedly the best-attended of the entire speaker series. Less ‘speaker’ and more conversation, this event offers direct connections with representatives from a wide range of funding sources & types. Plus, you will hear from panel of funding recipients from the local farm community.

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Oct 26 NSEA-WCD
partner work party 9am-12pm on Tenmile Creek.
Read about it here!
This is a continuation of the work we helped with for Earth Day in April, on a stretch of the creek east of Reither Elementary, at E. Hemmi Road. This summer, the county redirected the creek into an original section of its channel while installing a larger road culvert to alleviate local flooding. Now this month we will celebrate ‘Make a Difference Day‘ as we plant native trees along the creek there. This is a beautiful site we should all know about, a great continuing example of restoration potential adjacent to agricultural lands while maintaining salmon habitat. Join us – we will be there with our display table – mud-boots, work gloves & all!

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Oct 29: Septic System Homeowner Training, 6-8pm, Ferndale WECU; follow the link to register – seats are limited!
The training covers how your septic system works and provides tips for proper maintenance. You will leave feeling good about understanding how this expensive and important piece of your property functions. When you complete the training you also qualify to apply for rebates on repairs or maintenance costs for your septic system. Learn more on the County’s septic system website here. For 5 tips on keeping a healthy system see our previous blog post here.

Logo full - Oct 2018 - 50% for site iconNov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: Aneka Sweeney from the Whatcom Conservation District will explain how tree & shrub stream buffers help improve water quality. Q&A will follow.

Looking ahead: We have confirmed speakers for our next two meetings, and expect you will not want to miss these – plan now!

Jan 8: 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: Chuck Lindsey (Associated Earth Sciences) has extensive experience studying our Whatcom watersheds. That experience will be on display as Chuck will share: Groundwater Insights: From Nooksack River to Tenmile Creek. Q&A will follow.

Mar 11: 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.
Program: John Mercer (Co-owner of Water System Services) and his business has supported both public & private drinking water systems in our county for decades. John will share some of what he has learned along the way with: Rural Whatcom Water Systems: Lessons from 20 Years of Service. Q&A will follow.

Helpful tips for a healthy septic system

After a busy time last week, we are catching up with the mail – like this, some important advice left over from a ‘Water Week‘ of useful information. Ask yourself this: how is that septic system working for you? That’s essential because your sewage doesn’t go ‘away’ – it gets processed right there in your yard. And that system works well, if you take good care of it.

tip 1Here are Five Tips in our mailbox about that – how many do you know about already? (We might even throw in some of our own, at the end.)

Tip #1: A worn out toilet flapper can allow water to leak from the toilet tank to the toilet bowl. These leaks often go unnoticed and could send hundreds of gallons of additional water through your septic system each day stressing the system and eventually costing you big bucks. Replacing them is cheap, quick and easy!  Check out this video.

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Tip #2: Double check that rain water runoff and downspouts on your property are diverted away from your septic system. A properly designed septic system is made to handle a specific amount of wastewater. Extra water can lead to the increased likelihood of expensive repairs or replacement.

tip 3Tip #3: Try to do laundry throughout the week and avoid ‘laundry catch up days’. Washing 5 loads of laundry in one day could send more than 200 gallons of water through your septic system! When too much water goes through your system in a short period of time the solids in the wastewater don’t have enough time to settle in the tank. The solids make their way into the drainfield and can eventually cause you expensive problems.

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Tip #4: Think at the Sink! Your septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat your wastewater. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and harm your septic system. Whether you are at the kitchen sink, bathtub, or utility sink, remember these rules:
* No chemical drain openers;
* No cooking oil, fats or grease;
* No paints, solvents toxic cleaners;
* Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal.

tip 5Tip #5: Septic systems problems can be expensive and messy. You can avoid troubling repairs and backups by only flushing toilet paper and poo down your loo! Anything else you are tempted to flush should be disposed of in the trash.

Now for some bonus tips:
#6: Know where your septic tank is in your yard. It will need occasional inspecting, and problems observed there can head off more serious issues later.

#7: Register here for a Health Department free homeowner training, to learn more about maintaining your system.
#8:  Take advantage of septic rebates here, available for septic evaluations, equipment installation & septic tank pumping when done by a licensed professional.
#9: To repair or replace a failing septic system, loans are available through a partnership between Whatcom County and a non-profit lender.

For more about either rebates or loans, contact Kate Rice at Whatcom County Public Works: krice@co.whatcom.wa.us or 360-778-6302.

 

This week… is Water Week! Tours, talks, stories – and SeaFeast

water week posterWhat you see here only scratches the surface, so for the whole lineup and to learn more, check out the whole schedule at the Water Week website here.

But here’s a teaser selection:
Tue thru Thu: Multiple library story times.
Wed & Thu: Multiple tours of municipal water & sewer facilities in Lynden & Bellingham.
Wed & Thu: stream tours, two in Bellingham and one on Maple Creek outside Maple Falls.
Thursday: a Whatcom Museum special exhibit.
Saturday: guided salmon sighting on 2 creeks.

And for some special highlights….

equine field day

Thu, Sep 19th: Okay, it’s not officially part of Water Week, but it’s very much about helping to protect water quality in our streams. As part of the continuing Speaker Series, the Whatcom Conservation District presents:
Equine Health: Are you winter ready?
6-8pm; RSVP for location.

Thu, Sep 19th, 6-8:30pm: Seize this special opportunity to hear from many of the water experts – both residents & professionals – in our community:
Shared Waters, Challenges & Solutions: Short talks that might just change how you look at water.’
Explore the status of water for fish and people, why it matters, and possible solutions to address challenges for meeting these needs.  Light refreshments available. Register here for this free event. Find program details here.

Sat & Sun, Sep 21/22: SeaFeast closes out the week. ‘Come Eat & Play. A memorable gathering for family and friends, providing education, fun & food of the surrounding bay and straits.’  Admission is FREE.
Two locations: ​Squalicum Harbor both days, plus Downtown Bellingham on Saturday & Zuanich Point Park on Sunday. Find information here.

Finally, looking ahead:
Oct 15: WCD Speaker Series, Farm Funding Opportunities, 6-8 pm Ferndale WECU
Oct 28: Tenmile Creek Workday, 9am-noon; we return to the site of our Earth Day event this year near Reither Elementary school, with partners WCD & NSEA.
Oct 29: Septic System Homeowner Training, 6-8pm, Ferndale WECU
Nov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting , 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. Our guest speaker, WCD’s Aneka Sweeney, will explain how stream buffers can help improve water quality.

This week: Tenmile members meeting, and Run with the Chums

Most important this week:TenmileCleanWaterProject_V7
Sep 11: on Wednesday, don’t miss our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery.

At this meeting, our member Kirsten McDade, Pollution Prevention Specialist at RE Sources, will be describing the Water Reporter program; she says:
The Water Reporter program will empower & engage community members in keeping our waters free and clear of pollution.  The Water Reporter program teaches citizens how to recognize and report everyday pollution.  Becoming a Water Reporter is simple, easy, and fun.  Together we can find solutions to our pollution problems!
You can read her blog post about the program here.

Sep 14: Saturday opens Whatcom Water Week, featuring multiple events over 2 weekends, beginning with:
Run with the Chums at the ‘BP Highlands’ in the Terrell Creek watershed south of Birch Bay. Included are a kids run, event t-shirts & refreshments. For information and registration see the website here.

 

There are several other Water Week events on the same day, with more over the coming 10 days. Check it out!
For more September events, see this earlier blog post.
Finally, if you know of events that we missed, let us know so we can include them!

 

 

This week: Farm Tour includes Matheson Farms – and we’ll be there Sunday!

Events this week include:
Sep 7 & 8: The 13th Annual Whatcom Farm Tour –  includes stops at more than a dozen locations, some on each day: 10am-4pm. “Don’t miss a weekend full of farm adventures and culinary delights — one of the biggest events for September Eat Local Month! The Farm Tour highlights amazing family-owned farms, and is free, self-guided, and family-friendly. See, taste, feel, and learn hands-on what goes into local food production. The tour will have everything from baby cows to hayrides, and provides exciting educational activities at each tour stop.” bellewood photo
Find these in the Tenmile area: Appel Farms (Sat only); Growing Veterans (both days); and on both days our partners at Bellewood Farms will be open for refreshments and shopping.

 

Matheson-Farms-logoAnd especially important for us on both days, the tour includes Matheson Farms; on Sunday we will have our Tenmile Clean Water Project table display to help welcome visitors. We have enjoyed hearing Sandra Matheson speak at our meeting, and appreciate the family’s many efforts towards responsible stewardship of land & water in the area. Thanks to the Matheson family for hosting the tour – and us!

Matheson location: 228 E Smith Rd, just east of the Guide.
For more September events, see this earlier blog post.

Save the dates! For September…

save the dateHere is a preview of the many events relevant to our watershed that will be occurring in September. And on each Monday of the month, we will be offering details of those coming soon. Finally, if you know of others that we missed, let us know so we can include them!

Sep 5: WCD Speaker Series, Soil Health on the Dairy Farm , 10am-Noon; RSVP for location

Sep 7 & 8: Whatcom County Farm Tour, 10am-4pm each day, at more than a dozen locations, including these in the Tenmile area: Appel Farms; Growing Veterans; Bellewood Acres; and most important to us, Matheson-Farms-logoMatheson Farms, where we will have our Tenmile Clean Water Project table display to help welcome visitors. Thanks to the Matheson family for hosting the tour – and us!

Logo full - Oct 2018 - 50% for site iconSep 11: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting, 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. Member & guest speaker Kirsten McDade will describe the Water Reporter program to track pollution in our waterways.

Sep 12: WCD Speaker Series, Renewable Energy for the Farm, 6-8pm, Breckenridge Blueberries, Everson.

water week posterSep 14-22: Whatcom Water Weeks, multiple events over 2 weekends, including the Chum Run (9/14); salmon sightings; shoreline cleanups; two (!!) municipal water treatment tours; library storytimes; an important ‘ted-talk’-style program of “Short talks that just might change how you look at water” (9/19; details in pdf file here; register here); and Bellingham SeaFeast (9/21 & 22).

Sep 19: WCD Speaker Series, Equine Health: Are you winter ready?; 6-8pm; RSVP for location.

Looking ahead:
Oct 15: WCD Speaker Series, Farm Funding Opportunities, 6-8 pm Ferndale WECU
Oct 28: Tenmile Creek Workday, 9am-noon; we return to the site of our Earth Day event this year near Reither Elementary school, with partners WCD & NSEA.
Oct 29: Septic System Homeowner Training, 6-8pm, Ferndale WECU
Nov 13: our Tenmile Clean Water Project meeting , 6:30-8pm, at Bellewood Acres Farmstead & Brewery. Our guest speaker, WCD’s Aneka Sweeney, will explain how stream buffers can help improve water quality.

Report from Laurel Feed Customer Appreciation Day

OLauel Feed imagen May 11 some of our members set up our new information display at the Laurel Farm & Western Supply, on West Laurel road, for their annual customer appreciation day. This is one of the most popular spring events in the area, with many attractions for the family.

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On a warm & sunny day, hundreds probably visited at one time or another – the kids may have outnumbered parents by 3 to 1. It’s hard to beat pony rides, farm animals and hundreds of trout to be caught!

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Still, with our partners at the Whatcom Conservation District, we were able to talk with residents, and learned more about issues related to water availability and quality in both stream & ground water in the Deer Creek watershed (tributary to Ten Mile Creek.)

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Photos: blockbuster Earth Day event!

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Thanks to great planning, perfect spring weather and a superb site on Ten Mile Creek, the planting event on April 20th was a great success! We had almost 200 volunteers out to plant more than 500 trees & shrubs.

IMG_20190420_102902724With willing landowner support, our co-sponsors Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) and Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) had everything ready to go to plant out the north/east banks of the creek at this site just east of Reither Elementary School, where NSEA had planted the west bank years ago, now nicely maturing and shading the creek.

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As a co-sponsor, we had our TCWP information display set up for the day, and greeted each arriving group of volunteers with a brief introduction about our organization and what we do. The display enabled further conversations throughout the morning.
It was a great day!IMG_20190420_111438128