Bacteria Pollution in Local Waterways Receives Attention from State Regulators

June, 2014







Runoff polluted with fecal coliform, specifically E. coli, has long been recognized as a significant water quality problem in the Humboldt Bay watershed, impacting the Bay ecosystem, water-based recreation, and the commercial oyster industry.

Using Humboldt Bayeeper’s 2005-2009 Citizen Water Monitoring data, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board staff recently recommended six waterways for listing under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act due to bacterial pollution.

On May 8, the Regional Board held a workshop at the River Lodge in Fortuna discussing the recommended listing, which will prioritize research to pinpoint the sources and ultimately work towards reducing pollution and improving water quality. The final decision will be made in August.

While County Environmental Health monitors local beaches and posts warnings, little has been done to identify the sources and develop strategies to address polluted runoff that impacts local coastal waters.

Good news for oyster growers and eaters: Humboldt Bay itself is not proposed for listing due to overall low E. coli levels. The proposed listing should benefit the oyster industry, which is required to suspend harvest during and after major rainstorms due to the high levels of bacteria being flushed from the Bay’s tributaries.

Special thanks to the Eureka Times-Standard editorial board for supporting the proposed listing. (See A Call to Action, April 12).

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