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PART 2: SAN JUAN COUNTY CHARACTERIZATION REPORT


CHAPTER 5: WATER QUALITY




Water Quality

The preceding chapters discuss the beneficial uses and potential pollution sources of surface water in San Juan County. By knowing the existing quality of the surface water it is possible to identify pollution sources and protect beneficial uses and to determine whether restoration or prevention strategies are needed. This chapter lists the relevant water quality standards and discusses the water quality conditions as currently known.

Water Quality Standards

Washington State has established water quality standards for surface water to protect public health and public enjoyment, and for the propagation and protection of fish, shellfish, and wildlife, pursuant to Chapter 90.48 RCW. The standards are contained in Chapter 173-201A WAC, Water Quality Standards for Surface Water of the State of Washington. The State established five criteria classes for surface water: Class AA extraordinary, Class A excellent, Class B good, Class C fair, and Lake class, based on the present and future use of the surface water.

The standards identify and place specific classification on various marine and fresh surface waters around the State. Surface water bodies not specifically classified receive a general classification. The marine waters surrounding San Juan County have received a specific classification of Class AA extraordinary (WAC 173-201A-140). Marine waters are the only surface water that has received a specific classification in San Juan County. In this classification all unclassified surface water that are tributaries to Class AA water are classified as Class AA. Therefore, since all surface water in San Juan County flows into marine waters, by default all fresh surface water in San Juan County is Class AA and must meet the standards in Table 5-1.

Within each criteria class, characteristic uses and water quality standards were defined. The characteristic uses of Class AA waters includes water supply (domestic, agricultural and industrial); stock watering; fish and shellfish rearing, spawning, and harvesting, wildlife habitat; recreation; and commerce and navigation. Chapter 3, Beneficial Uses, further explains these uses in the various watersheds.

The regulated water quality parameters for Class AA surface water include fecal coliforms, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved gas, temperature, pH, turbidity, toxic, radioactive or deleterious materials, and aesthetic value. Table 5-1 summarizes the water quality parameters for Class AA waters.

It should be noted that water quality criteria for conditions that are due to natural causes (not as a result of human activities) are lower that those listed below. In San Juan County temperature is an example of a parameter that may be naturally above the criteria in some locations.

Water Quality Standards for Class AA (extraordinary) Surface Water


Table 5-1.
Note: cfu refers to colony forming unit (bacterial colonies).
Water Quality Parameter Freshwater Standard Marine Water Standard
Fecal Coliform a geometric mean £ 50 cfu/100 mL, with less than 10% of samples exceeding 100 cfu/100 mL a geometric mean £ 14 cfu/100 mL, with less than 10% of samples exceeding 43 cfu/100 mL.
Dissolved Oxygen

> 9.5 mg/L.

> 7.0 mg/L.
Total Dissolved Gas

< 110 percent of saturation at any point of sample collection
Temperature

£ 16° C

£ 13° C
pH

6.5 - 8.5

7.0 - 8.5
Turbidity < 5 NTU over background, with a background of < 50 NTU. If background is > 50 NTU, shall not exceed a 10% increase
Toxic, Radioactive and Deleterious Materials concentration below those that adversely affect characteristic water uses, cause acute or chronic conditions to the most sensitive biota or adversely affect public health.
Aesthetic Value shall not be impaired (including senses of sight, smell, touch or taste

Additional water quality parameters of significance that do not have official State standards include nitrate and total suspended solids (TSS). Values recommended by EPA were used as a guideline for TSS thresholds. Values for nitrate were based on a study of conditions in the East Lake Sammamish watershed of King County (£ 1.25 mg/L), and recommendations from EPA for nitrogen levels to avoid algal blooms in estuaries (0.1 to 1.0 mg/L). Table 5-2 indicates these values.

Recommended water quality threshold values for surface waters


Table 5-2.

Water Quality Parameter

Recommended threshold values

Nitrate (N)

< 1.25 mg/L

Total Suspended Solids (TSS)

£ 50 mg/L

Fecal coliforms

Fecal coliform bacteria are microscopic organisms that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and are excreted in waste, or feces. Although not necessarily agents of disease, fecal coliform bacteria indicate the presence of disease carrying organisms. Unlike other water quality parameters fecal coliforms are living organisms and instead of mixing in water they can grow quickly in favorable conditions or die off when conditions are poor. The source of coliforms can be variable as well, due to heavy rains washing pollutants into streams, or a failing septic system being overloaded when guests arrive. The concentration, or loading rate, for fecal coliforms in a stream can vary depending on the volume of water. The state standard for fecal coliforms requires a geometric mean of a number of samples.


Dissolved Oxygen

Oxygen is essential to aquatic organisms, for the decomposition of organic material, and for other biologic and chemical processes. Oxygen is produced during the day by photosynthesis and consumed by respiration and decomposition. Dissolved oxygen (DO) varies between day and night, and increases in turbulent, fast-flowing waters. Pollution tends to cause a decrease in stream and surface water oxygen by adding chemical or biological constituents that have a high oxygen demand, by adding effluent, and runoff water with low oxygen levels. It can be difficult to tell where pollutants are entering surface water, since the low DO levels can occur downstream from the source of contamination. Sediments, nutrients (waste and fertilizers), and organic matter all increase the oxygen demand.


Temperature

Temperature governs the kinds of aquatic life that can live in a stream or waterbody. Fish, insects, zooplankton, phytoplankton, and other aquatic species all have preferred temperature ranges. Temperature also influences chemistry and in turn affects biological activity and oxygen levels. Warm water holds less oxygen than cool water, and may be "saturated" with oxygen but still not contain enough to support aquatic life. Water temperature varies naturally based on air temperature, source water, and velocity. A forested watershed with steep terrain moves water quickly and protects it from the sun. A flat, sparsely vegetated watershed, where water moves slowly, causes water to absorb more heat from the sun. The pollution impact from increased temperature is caused by removal of vegetative cover from the banks of streams, ponds, and wetlands. Paved surfaces also tend to heat runoff into surface waters.


pH

The pH of water affects soluability and the biological availability of chemical constituents. This determines how nutrients and heavy metals are utilized by aquatic life. Geology and the origin of the source water determine the initial pH of water. Seasonal and daily changes in photosynthesis are the greatest causes of variation in pH. Small or localized changes in pH are easily buffered and changes in the overall pH during the course of a day are usually fairly small. The pH scales goes from acid to alkaline, from 0 to 14, with neutral being 7. Natural fresh waters generally stay between 6.5 and 8.5, marine waters are usually between 7.5 and 8.4.


Nutrients

Nutrients in surface water serve the same purpose they do for all life. They are essential for growth. This can be beneficial, but in a stream or other surface water can cause excessive growth of algae and other plants. Phosphorus (total phosporus, soluble reactive phosphate, or orthophosphate) and nitrogen (total nitrogen, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, or ammonia-nitrogen) are the main nutrients of concern for surface waters. Measuring these nutrients in their various forms can be complex, but is necessary in order to determine the overall effect. Concentrations of nutrients vary seasonally. Man-made pollution from fertilizers and inadequate waste disposal can enter streams at different times of the year, and in the winter high rainfall washes organic materials down stream, which then decompose into nutrients. Increased nutrients are almost always an indication of pollution from human activities.


Turbidity

Turbidity and total suspended solids (TSS) indicate the amount of particles suspended in water. High concentrations of particulate matter can cause sedimentation and siltation in streams and wetlands and ruin habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Turbidity is also an indicator of other potential pollutants. Turbidity increases during heavy rainfall, depending on the native soils and geology of the area. Land use activities are probably the greatest factor in increased turbidity in a surface water body.


Water Quality Conditions

The majority of existing surface water monitoring in San Juan County has been for marine waters as part of state programs. Two state agencies, the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Ecology (DOE), conduct ongoing marine water monitoring at several locations throughout San Juan County. In the past, fresh water monitoring, except for drinking water sources, has been one time only for specific studies. Currently, the county is conducting a one-year, county-wide monitoring project to determine baseline water quality parameters and develop an on-going monitoring program.

The DOH Shellfish Section monitors marine water for fecal coliform pollution over and adjacent to commercial shellfish growing operations. Monitoring stations are located in Shoal Bay, Lopez Sound, Mud Bay, Hunter Bay, Mackay Harbor, Ship Bay (East Sound), Buck Bay, and Westcott Bay. A new station has been located in East Sound at Coon Hollow. Stations are generally monitored six times per year or every other month. Compared to most shellfish areas, San Juan County has the highest marine water quality in the state and all stations are currently in compliance with the fecal coliform standard. However, stations at Buck Bay and the new Coon Hollow site show increasing coliform counts. (Lenartson 1998)

The Department of Ecology Environmental Assessment Program Ambient Monitoring Section monitors three stations in the San Juans. One core station that represents the Strait of Georgia, with influences from the Fraser River, is sampled monthly. In 1997, two rotating stations, East Sound and Lopez Sound, were monitored monthly. Three other stations were monitoring prior to 1989. Ecology has eight to 12 rotating marine ambient stations, which rotate between north, central, and south Puget Sound every third year. The water quality parameters monitored include, but are not limited to, fecal coliform, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and nitrate. The East Sound monitoring station has recorded low dissolved oxygen concentrations. The frequency of the excursions has increased, suggesting human activity influences. (Garland, et al, 1996) The East Sound area was proposed for listing as impaired under the federal Clean Water Act 303(d) section in 1996, as a waterbody needing management actions to meet federal standards. Ecology chooses monitoring locations on the basis of current water quality concerns and local requests. The next round for San Juan County will occur in 2003, particularly if local government makes its needs known to Ecology in advance.

Additional surface water assessments have been conducted by Ecology's Watershed Assessment Section. Two surveys were completed in Friday Harbor and adjacent San Juan Channel. Singleton and Joy completed a survey in 1983 and concluded that high fecal coliform concentrations were attributable to the Town of Friday Harbor's Wastewater Treatment Plant and boater wastes. A follow-up survey by Determan and Kendra in 1986, completed after improvements to the treatment plan operations, concluded that boater wastes were the significant contributor to the fecal coliform counts in Friday Harbor. San Juan Channel was also proposed for 303(d) listing in 1996.

The monitoring conducted by DOH and DOE focuses on marine water quality only. The quality of the fresh water entering the marine environment is relatively unknown. As part of the characterization project for this report, San Juan County conducted stream sampling to get a snapshot of current water quality conditions in the watersheds. The sampling regime involved taking initial spot samples in May and June of 1997 with follow-up samples collected between November 1997 and February 1998 for sites where the initial sampling showed concentrations of contaminants greater than standards. The initial samples were collected from the mouths of streams as they enter marine embayments. Follow-up samples were collected from the same location and upstream, typically where the steam crossed a roadway, to try and isolate the pollution source.

The initial samples were analyzed for temperature, pH, conductivity, nitrate, total suspended solids, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliforms. The follow-up samples were analyzed for the same parameters except nitrate. A Solomat meter was used to take field measurements for temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. Samples for total and fecal coliform were transported to the Skagit County Laboratory.

Monitoring locations and data tables are shown on pages 64 through 66, for more detailed monitoring results see Appendix A. Data sets for fecal coliform, temperature, pH and TSS were analyzed at sampling sites that had multiple (more than one) sampling events to determine if the water quality exceeded (contamination was in excess of) the standards. The data for dissolved oxygen and conductivity were excluded due to sampling errors. Nitrate concentrations were not analyzed as only one round of sampling was completed on a small number of monitoring sites. Complete sets of data for all sampling sites, events, and parameters can be found in Appendix A, Water Quality Monitoring Data.

A review of the data indicates that at several stations water quality was in violation of the standards for fecal coliform, temperature, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS). On Lopez Island, samples at stations L26, L18, L32, and L33, located in the Fisherman Bay and Mud/Hunter watersheds, exceeded the fecal coliform standard. Station L26 exceeded the TSS standard on one occasion and station L18 exceeded the standard on three out of the eight sampling events. The sources of pollution were not determined, however, potential causes include agricultural operations, on-site septic systems, and residential development. See Table 5-6.

Water sampling on Orcas Island indicated water quality at stations in Buck Bay, East Sound, and West Sound violated the fecal coliform, TSS, and temperature standards. Station O1 in Buck Bay, station O11 in Eastsound Village and stations O9, O13, and O19 in West Sound violated the fecal coliform standards. Stations O1 and O13 raise the most concern with geometric means of 333 fecal coliform (fc)/100 mL and 237 fc/100 mL, respectively. Samples at station O11 exceeded the temperature standard on one occasion. TSS standards were exceeded at stations O1, O2, O11, O9, O13, and O19. Station O19 exceeded the standard most frequently; 50 percent of the time (3 out of 6 samples), followed closely by station O11 at 43 percent (3 out of 7 samples). The stations with high fecal counts in Buck Bay and West Sound are primarily affected by agricultural operations, although on-site septic systems may also be contributing to the problem. Station O11 in East Sound is a stormwater drain for the village of Eastsound. The area is heavily developed with a large percentage of impervious surfaces. Potential pollution sources may include the sewer system serving the community and stormwater. See Table 5-5, on page 65.

San Juan Island samples at stations in the False Bay, Friday Harbor, and Westcott/Garrison Bay watersheds violated the fecal coliform and TSS water quality standards. Station SJ2 in False Bay, station SJ8 in Friday Harbor, and station SJ6 in Westcott/Garrison Bay exceeded the fecal coliform standard. Station SJ8, a stormwater drain for the Town of Friday Harbor, raises the most concerns with a geometric mean of 2147 fc/100mL. All samples from this station were in excess of 1000 fc/100mL. Stations SJ2, SJ5, SJ6, and SJ15 exceeded the TSS standard. Station SJ6 exceeded the standard most frequently (71 percent or 5 out of 7 samples). The high counts at station SJ2 in False Bay are attributable to agricultural activities in the area. Residential development may be contributing to the pollution, however, given the agricultural character of this part of watershed the potential seems quite low. Station SJ8 in Friday Harbor is a stormwater culvert and may be influenced by leaking sewer pipes, pet waste, and other stormwater sources. Stations in Westcott/Garrison Bay may be affected by both on-site sewage disposal systems and agricultural operations. The shoreline area along Westcott Bay is largely residential development. Agricultural operations are present upland from the shoreline. See Table 5-4.

As discussed above, water quality standards were exceeded at numerous sampling sites throughout the county. This discussion focuses on stations with more than one sampling event. However, many additional stations were included in this study but were only sampled once. Several of these stations had samples that exceeded the water quality standards. While this information is useful, a single sample, from any station, is simply a "snap-shot in time" representing the conditions when the sample was collected and is not a complete picture of water quality at the site.

Pollution sources were not identified as part of this project. The water quality monitoring was completed to provide an overview of potential "hot spots." In the spring of 1999, Health and Community Services contracted with the Institute for Watershed Studies, Huxley College, to conduct a year of baseline monitoring and develop recommendations for establishing a long-term monitoring program for the county. Results of this monitoring will be available in the spring of 2000.

In October 1999, Department of Ecology issued a Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) Ranking for San Juan County, based on the monitoring described above. This initial ranking will give Ecology priorities for further assessment and, if necessary, remediation through their water quality programs. Based on the second level of standards used to determine surface water quality, which is no more than 10% of the samples used to calculate the geometric mean exceed 100cfu/100mL in fresh water or 43 cfu/100 mL in marine waters, the report recommends the following ranking for candidate watersheds for fecal coliform TMDLs:


Table 5-3. Water Quality Programs in San Juan County
  Program Services/Projects Time frame
San Juan County Drinking Water Program Indvidual and community water supplies Ongoing
On-Site Septic System Program Individual and community septic systems Ongoing
Solid Waste Facilities permitting and enforcement Permitting, monitoring, and enforcement Ongoing
Nonpoint Source Pollution,
Watershed Management Action Plan

Watershed Management Action Plan

Baseline surface water quality monitoring

Long-term monitoring program

1997-2000
Watershed Management Plan, WRIA 02

Water resource assessment

Watershed Management Plan addressing: instream flows, water quality, habitat

1999-2002
SJC
Conservation District
USGS Salt Water Intrusion and Recharge Distribution Identification of salt water intrusion areas and recharge analysis 1996-2001
Centennial Clean Water Puget Sound Funds Farm and forestry plans for protection of water quality and habitat 1998-2000
Centennial Clean Water Funds Wetlands, riparian assessement and restoration projects 1999-2000
Town of
Friday Harbor
Trout Lake Watershed Water quality monitoring, watershed community education Ongoing
WSU/SJC Extension Service Education programs Information on farm and home water quality problems and management (FarmAssist, HomeAssist) Ongoing
SJC
Stewardship Network
Coalition of educational, environmental groups Coordination of projects, surveys and monitoring, data sharing Ongoing
State programs Department of Health Shellfish Section Monitoring of approved shellfish areas Ongoing
Department of Ecology Ambient Monitoring Program Monitoring of marine stations throughout the county Ongoing
Department of Ecology Water Quality programs. Regulatory programs for point discharge permits, stormwater, dairies, shorelands Ongoing
Department of Natural Resources Forestry practices permits, include water quality standards Ongoing
Federal Programs Army Corps of Engineers Federal Clean Water Act Section 404, fill and dredge of wetlands Ongoing
Environmental Protection Agency Revolving funds and grants for nonpoint pollution control projects Ongoing




Table 5-4 -- Water Quality Data for San Juan Island, 1997-98 Characterization Monitoring

Note: The range for the lab analysis used for fecal coliform has an upper limit of 2400 organisms.
Actual counts may be significantly higher.

Fecal Coliform (cfu/100mL)

pH

Temperature (° C)

Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)
Watershed
Sampling
Site

Samples

Range

Geo. Mean

Samples

Range

#
Excd. Stnd.

Samples

Range
#
Excd. Stnd.

Samples

Range

#
Excd. Stnd.
False Bay SJ2

7

3 - > 2400

112

7

7.5 - 8.05

0

7

4.6 - 15

0

7

5 - 54

1
Friday Harbor SJ7

6

4 - > 2400

22

6

7.63 - 8.2

0

6

5.3 - 14.3

0

6

5.3 - 14.3

0
SJ8

7

1100 - > 2400

2147

6

8.4 - 8.7

3

6

6.7 - 8

0

6

6.7 - 8

0
Westcott/
Garrison
SJ5

9

9 - 240

37

4

7.67 - 8.19

0

4

4.8 - 11.02

0

4

23.1 - 75

1
SJ6

8

4 - 1100

156

7

7.5 - 8.42

0

7

5.1 - 11

0

7

22.3 -323

5
SJ15

8

3 - >2400

22

6

7.3 - 8.7

1

6

5.1 - 6.7

0

6

4.8 - 70

2
SJ16

9

4 - 240

40

6

3.19 - 7.62

0

6

5.1 - 6.6

0

6

20.9 - 48

0
SJ22

5

3 - 93

6

0

n/a

n/a

0

n/a

n/a

0

n/a

n/a

SEE MAP APPENDIX A



Table 5-5 -- Water Quality Data for Lopez Island, 1997-98 Characterization Monitoring
 
Note: The range for the lab analysis used for fecal coliform has an upper limit of 2400 organisms.
Actual counts may be significantly higher.

Fecal Coliform (cfu/100mL)

PH

Temperature (° C)

Total Suspended
Solids (mg/L)
Watershed
Sampling Site

Samples

Range

Geo. Mean

Samples

Range

# Excd. Stnd

Samples

Range

# Excd. Stnd.

Samples

Range

# Excd. Stnd.
Fisherman Bay

L26

7

23 - > 2400

187

5

7.9 -8.2

0

5

7.4 -8.2

0

5

32.7 - 57

1

L31

6

3 -23

4

0

n/a

n/a

0

n/a

n/a

0

n/a

0
Mud/Hunter Bays

L18

8

23 - >2400

199

8

7.5 - 8.1

0

8

5.6 - 12.7

0

8

33 - 92

3

L32

6

3 - 1100

70

6

7.4 - 8.2

0

6

5.1 - 7.3

0

6

8.2 - 41.2

0

L33

6

4 - 1100

121

1

7

0

1

8.2

0

1

0

n/a

SEE MAP APPENDIX A



Table 5-6 Water Quality Data for Orcas Island, 1997-98 Characterization Monitoring

Note: The range for the lab analysis used for fecal coliform has an upper limit of 2400 organisms.
Actual counts may be significantly higher.

Fecal Coliform (cfu/100mL)

pH

Temperature (° C)

Total Suspended
Solids (mg/L)
Watershed
Sampling Site

Samples

Range

Geo. Mean

Samples

Range

# Excd. Stnd

Samples

Range (° C)

# Excd. Std.

Samples

Range

# Excd. Std.
Buck Bay

O1

9

15 - > 2400

333

7

7.5 - 8.1

7

5.6 - 11.1

0

7

23.2 - 73

1

O2

7

9 > 93

35

6

8.0 - 8.3

6

6.4 - 11.4

0

5

0.1 - 123

2
Eastsound

O11

7

7 > 1100

71

7

8.1 - 8.5

7

6.4 - 18.9

1

7

2.8 - 8146

3

O30

7

4 > 290

22

6

7.1 - 7.4

6

6.4 - 7.6

0

5

19.3 - 33

0
Westsound

O9

8

15 > 460

52

7

8.0 - 8.1

7

5.9 - 14.6

0

7

26.4 - 56

1

O13

6

93 - > 2400

237

6

7.7 - 7.9

6

5.0 - 7.2

0

6

22 - 115.2

2

O19

7

4 - > 2400

71

6

8.0 - 8.1

6

6.7 - 12.2

0

6

5 - 88

3

 

SEE MAP APPENDIX A



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