Ecology Drafts 2008 Water Quality Assessment

The Washington Department of Ecology at Olympia invited the public to comment on its updated assessment of water quality in the state, which includes the most current list of polluted waters.

The online 2008 Water Quality Assessment is the latest picture of the state's water quality. It helps the state and local partners prioritize which polluted waters to clean up. The draft 2008 Water Quality Assessment is online at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/303d/2008/index.html.

"This assessment is based on the most credible and reliable monitoring information we’ve had about Washington's waters," said Dave Peeler, manager of the department's water quality program. "This extremely focused attention turns up water quality information on hundreds of waters in the state. In many cases, the assessment verifies that we are already tackling the important water quality priorities."

The assessment, which is required by the federal Clean Water Act, is a combination of the state's updated list of polluted waters plus a status of all state waters. It includes both data about water quality taken in the water column as well as data about sediment quality taken from fresh and marine waters. The assessment is based on data about waters that the department received or collected as of December 2006.

New to the 2008 Water Quality Assessment are the following:
• a special search function for Puget Sound listings,
• a more highly detailed water mapping layer,
• listings for contaminated sediments,
• a smaller grid size for looking at contaminated sediments, providing a more accurate picture for sediments versus water,
• a higher bar for waters to get on the "clean" list by requiring more testing and proof of high quality.

The department's preliminary comparisons between the 2004 and 2008 Water Quality Assessment find about 900 new water listings should be included on the state's new list of polluted waters, about 800 listings are to the list of waters where cleanup planning is under way and a continuing trend of listings for warm water temperatures that do not meet state standards.

"The trend for increased numbers of temperature listings is most likely because we’re looking more closely than ever at water temperature as an indicator of healthy salmon habitat so we can protect and restore threatened and endangered salmon," said Susan Braley, project manager of the assessment. "Salmon need cold water to survive and thrive."

The department's team encourages people who want to comment on the assessment to review waters they are familiar with and comment on where they see problems or disagree with the assessment results. If people disagree with the assessment results, they should send information to support the finding by email to 303d@ecy.wa.gov or by mail to Ken Koch, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600. These must be postmarked by no later than 5 p.m., March 21. People may direct questions about the assessment to Koch at 360-407- 6782.

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