What do the June lab results tell us?

Interpreting fecal coliform lab results can be like trying to solve a mystery without all the clues. We can only learn so much from lab data; after that, we need local watershed knowledge, eyes on the ground, a little technical advice, and many inquiring minds. Care to join us as we examine our June results? Read the summary below, and let us know what you think! Comment on this post, or use the ‘Contact Us’ page here.  (See a link for the full report at the end of this page.)

Background: our Tenmile Creek watershed has been meeting both water quality standards for more than 18 months now. We want to continue this!
Problem: our results for the last 12 months provide a warning that this record could be at risk, due to persistent high results at two particular sample sites.
Questions: what could be causing this pattern, and what can we do about it?

Here are the trends as-of June. Site T1, where the creek flows into the river, is what ultimately determines whether the  watershed is meeting the standards. The upstream sites tell us how various stretches of the creek are doing. All sites are meeting the standard for Geometric Mean (or ‘average’); a red line indicates the standard.
Monthly focus Geo Mean - June 2018But we have problems with the 90th Percentile, below; this measure is sensitive to occasional spikes in results (90% of samples must be less than 200) and thus is harder to meet. You can see we have 4 sites failing this standard. The black ‘dot’ in each bar indicates direction of the 12-month trend: T2 & T3 are gradually getting better. DC1 & TM15 are getting worse, and if this trend continues, these high values could ‘drag’ the value of T1 back into the red (as the T1 dot indicates), and our watershed would again be failing this standard.
Monthly focus 90th Percent - June 2018So where are these sample site locations? These two maps give you an idea. It is important to also note the next site upstream, because if the upstream lab results are lower (and they are), then we assume something entering the stream in between the two sites is likely causing the problem. First, DC1 is on Deer Creek, west of Northwest Drive; second, TM15 is on Tenmile Creek at Northwest. Each site has a mix of land use upstream, both dense residential with septic systems and larger Ag parcels; there is also greenbelt habitat for wildlife, including beavers.
Sample focus area - DC1 + DC3
Sample focus area - TM15 + T2So what could be causing this troublesome trend? One idea is that wildly variable weather recently, with alternating periods of wet & dry, create more chances for rainfall ‘flushes’ of the landscape. Another speculates about wildlife concentrations & migrations. There is always suspicion of failing septic systems, but there is no inspection data to support this. What do you think?

If you like, you can download the most recent (June) report here, lab analysis imagebut this and all other available prior reports are also catalogued on our Meeting Notes page here, on the same line for each appropriate month.

Whatcom County’s Pollution, Identification & Correction (PIC) program publishes this monthly report of fecal coliform lab results specific to Tenmile, and uses the standard 3-page, pdf-format template like other PIC focus-areas.

Available now: County fecal lab results monthly reports for Ten Mile Creek

Whatcom County’s Pollution, Identification & Correction (PIC) program has periodically published a monthly report of fecal coliform lab results specific to Tenmile – but not on a regular basis. We have now arranged to regularly receive the pdf-format report, which applies a standard 3-page template like other PIC focus-areas.

data report snip

You can download the most recent (April) report here, but this and all other available prior reports are now catalogued on our Meeting Notes page here, on the same line for each appropriate month.

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.

Laurel feed May 2019 -2



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!

Laurel feed May 2019 -3

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.)

Laurel feed May 2019 -1

Now we can talk about it: Manure Matters!

manure matters

In early May the Whatcom Conservation District announced a new public information campaign that should be of great interest to our watershed – ‘Manure Matters‘. You can read about it on their website here, and in a Lynden Tribune article here.
“The campaign will provide information on the steps farmers must take to protect water quality in local streams, rivers and bays and help generate a public understanding of how and why farmers recycle manure as an organic crop nutrient and soil amendment.”

Manure Matters

“The educational, and humorous ads will run in local newspapers, websites, radio, and social media throughout the spring and summer. This campaign is funded by a Washington State Department of Agriculture grant created by fines issued for improper manure management: Whatcom CD is recycling those funds back to the community.”
“The “Manure Matters” campaign will include a series of ads with different themes representing the variety of manure producers and users in Whatcom County. Whatcom CD hopes to remove the stigma around manure, bring a positive view to a valuable resource, and increase its appropriate use that is protective of water quality.”





Photos: blockbuster Earth Day event!


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.


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


NRCS presentation at our April 10 meeting

The Natural Resources Conservations Service (NRCS) sponsors the NWQI:NWQI logo plusFind information and materials from the presentation below.

At our April 10th meeting, Emily Usher presented “results from our local watershed forum last year, combined with results from five other watershed forums conducted across the country (NC, WA, VT, IL, and OK), and watershed-specific recommendations surrounding watershed management, resource needs & education/outreach.”

You can learn more by downloading her presentation (44 page Powerpoint here) and summary of results (2 page pdf here). Or contact us here for assistance.

County septic system homeowner training: April 24

This next opportunity to learn about your home septic system is Wednesday, April 24th, 6pm to 8pm, at the Ferndale WECU, 5659 Barrett Ave.

Evaluate image

With this training you will save money by being certified to evaluate your own system and have confidence knowing how your septic system works.

If your system is not eligible for homeowner evaluation or you simply don’t want to do it yourself, this class is still for you. The training covers the way septic systems work and provides tips for proper maintenance. You will leave feeling good about understanding how this expensive and important piece of your property works.

When you complete the training in person, 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.




Neighborhood walk interrupted: why all the trash?


Aldrich trash #1

A member reports:

I was enjoying my morning walk recently, admiring the snow capped mountains of BC and our own Mt Baker – when I passed several ditches littered with trash and garbage bags, all in various stages of decomposing. What a bummer!

My first thought was “who would do this?!” It is hard to believe that some people don’t feel connected to the community. Don’t they realize that fouling the ditches has consequences? Do they not even live here, and drive from their neighborhoods to dump their trash?

The water in these ditches eventually flows to our creeks and to Bellingham Bay. These waterways are home to fish, and other wildlife depend on them for their water supply – as we all do. If you see trash, please clean it up if you can; or call Whatcom County Public Works at (360) 778-6400. These lovely people will come to the rescue if you call.

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Earth Day work party on Ten Mile Creek! – April 20th

On Saturday, April 20th, 9am-noon we are co-sponsoring this Earth Day volunteer work party on Ten Mile Creek, organized by Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) and also co-sponsored by Whatcom Conservation District (WCD.) EarthDayDesign FINAL-01 - compressed

Parking will be at Irene Reither Elementary School next to the site (954 E Hemmi Rd.) And, to celebrate the day, the first 200 attending will receive a free t-shirt with this special-edition design! Snacks & coffee are also provided. See the NSEA website here for more details.

We will be planting buffer trees and shrubs along Ten Mile Creek just north of E. Hemmi road, a section of the creek that will be site of a wider project by Whatcom County & WCD later this year.