Pollution on Quilcene Bay?                                                   06/22/09

UPDATE - Analysis Results

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant After a pleasant and slow sail to Point Whitney, the return trip was startling.
We sailed right into a massive "Picasso" painting by nature. The photos
show the colors and patterns of the substance — whatever it was.
The mass stretched almost to the Quilcene Marina (approximately 1 mile)
down the middle of the harbor.

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant
It appears that the white substance is collecting eel grass and other debris
during its drift with the tide. The brown substance, when looking
close-up, resembles the refuse and debris we often see floating in
heavily-used marinas.

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant
We will hold our comments until we get opinions from professionals in the field.

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant
Yuk! From 30 years of sailing in Quilcene Harbor, we can say that we've
never seen anything like this before (and hope never to see it again).

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant
This is truly a Picasso.

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant
We decided to take a sampling for the professionals to figure it out.

Quilcene Bay — photo by Connie Gallant We'll need to flush the dinghy's bottom with well water!

An overabundance of algae in Dabob and Quilcene bays is considered the primary cause of dissolved oxygen highs and lows. Particularly the lows put severe stress on fish because they have difficulty in getting enough oxygen to stay alive.

According to our research through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and many University of Washington (UW) sponsored programs, one of the primary contributors to algea are home spetic systems near or on the shorelines. For example, this 6-house development has a cluster septic system that is barely above the high water mark.

Because effluent from even the best septics are not claimed to be 100% pure undoubtedly some pollutants eventually reach the bay through the ground water. Many of these pollutants promote algae growth, thus creating a low dissolved oxygen problem.

Results of Sample Analysis

Twiss Analytical, a well-respected laboratory in Poulsbo, Washington, sent us the following results from the samples we collected:

"The sample was very typical of a concentrated algae/plankton zone - lots of algae of various types, plenty of diatoms and quite a few zoo plankton still viable and swimming around.

"I strongly suspect the white material you saw was microbial biomass caused by the breakdown of the dying algae (when this happens at the bottom it causes oxygen depletion and eutrophication). This would also be consistent with the reports of large white "mats" and anoxic zones occurring on the bottom of the Canal from the same cause." — Tom Maziarz

Tom also mentioned that he was certain the biomass was loaded with bacteria, but they were unable to test for it due to the length of time elapsed between collection and analysis.

We also communicated with, and took a sample to, Neil Harrington, Jefferson County Water Quality Program Manager, who shared our communication with Jan A. Newton, Ph.D., Principal Oceanographer at the University of Washington. We also received a comment from Doug Myers, Director of Science, People for Puget Sound. Below are their responses:

"I did take a look a look and it looked like dead cell fragments. The material was mostly translucent and clearly lacking any internal cell structures. Many of them were in the shape of the valves (cell walls) of the diatom pseudonitzschia, of which I know there was a big bloom throughout the sound recently. I donít have a scale on our scope so I am hesitant to say for sure it was these since I donít know for certain that the sizing was correct. Interestingly, in talking with a coworker here we had a report of a similar floating mass of stuff in Scow Bay several years ago (but we didnít get a sample or a picture)." — Neil Harrington, Jefferson County Water Quality Program Manager

"Without a sample it is impossible to tell, but diatoms, when they get senescent (old), can look very much like the bottom picture. That would be my guess. This is a fairly common sight after big blooms. Probably not wise to label it "pollution" till something is confirmed one way or another. The middle picture is definitely Noctiluca. — Jan Newton, Principal Oceanographer at the University of Washington

ďFrom the photos, it looks like an oil slick, however, I canít rule out a massive amount of spawn from various invertebrates. Because of the solstice (long day length and big tides), many invertebrates time their mass spawning events for this time of year. A few weeks ago, Nisqually Beach was milky orange from seastar spawning.Ē — Doug Myers, Director of Science, People for Puget Sound