Water Pollution Source Identification & Correction

Address fecal pollution and other cumulative water pollution impacts on Puget Sound through pollution identification and correction (PIC) programs and total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans.
Fecal coliform bacteria are a widely used indicator of the presence of other microorganisms that can cause disease. Contact with water or consumption of shellfish polluted with bacteria and viruses from fecal pollution can cause illness. In the Salish Sea ecosystem, fecal pollution comes from both point-source origins such as combined sewer overflows as well as non-point source origins such as surface water runoff or failing septic systems and from livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Pollution identification and correction (PIC) programs in Puget Sound are a key element in a strategy to help identify and correct sources of fecal pollution; however, these programs are frequently underfunded. Total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans set limits on the allowable levels of fecal coliform concentrations and specify how much pollution must be reduced or eliminated to achieve clean water.

Successful strategies will include both regulatory and voluntary efforts to identify and correct fecal pollution in Puget Sound. Ensuring compliance with existing regulations and providing incentives to motivate efforts to reduce fecal pollution and support local monitoring programs will be essential for strategy success.

Implementing the Shellfish and Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategies supports the success of this strategy.
  • Reduce bacteria to protect shellfish beds
  • Reduce inequitable health outcomes

Fund, develop, and implement effective local and tribal nations pollution identification and correction (PIC) programs. (ID #9)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Generate adequate and sustainable funding to support long-term PIC programs;
  • Support focused community outreach and engagement;
  • Improve and provide regional support to build program capacity and effectiveness, and cross-program collaboration;
  • Promote onsite inspections incentives and installation of non-point source BMPs to reduce fecal runoff.

Support watershed cleanup implementation and the development of cleanup plans such as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and other strategies to limit fecal pollution. (ID #10)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Ensure cleanup plans identify pollution sources and outline strategies to protect and restore water bodies from the cumulative impacts of point and non-point sources;
  • Fund and support the implementation of TMDLs and cleanup plans;
  • Support focused community outreach and engagement;
  • Analyze the effectiveness of TMDLs;
  • Expand source measures and indicators needed.

Support fishers, hikers, and other recreational users through outreach and education to understand and reduce the effects of human and pet waste on water quality. (ID #63)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Identify barriers to increasing access to facilities and resources (for example, waste receptacle);
  • Promote a regional focus to collaborations and find better channels for outreach and education;
  • Support community outreach and engagement programs;
  • Provide adequate facilities and resources.

Fund, develop, and implement programs to address fecal pollution from people experiencing homelessness or with inadequate access to sanitary services. (ID #156)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Develop a strategy to stop fecal pollution from encampments and residents living without adequate waste management;
  • Assess the near-term needs;
  • Provide adequate resources and facilities;
  • Prioritize locations that are in direct proximity to surface waters.
Implementation Considerations

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • Promote broad engagement among stakeholders and provide stable funding to develop PIC programs, integrate TMDLs, and reduce the financial and capacity burdens on smaller jurisdictions.
  • Develop environmental health disparities maps for communities and tribal nations to understand cumulative water pollution impacts throughout Puget Sound.
  • Assess regional inequities associated with toxics and water pollution to gauge inequitable distribution and prioritize areas of action.
  • Improve integration between regulatory agencies and landowners around pollution prevention programs.
  • Develop community resources through green infrastructure to support water quality and expand beyond PIC programs.
  • Integrate outdoor recreation and stewardship performance measurements into TMDL and PIC programs.
  • Reduce administrative burden of and develop more inclusive guidelines for pollution identification and prevention incentive programs.
  • Consult with tribal nations early and prioritize their interests in developing approaches to pollution prevention that align with tribal nations’ treaty and sovereign rights.
  • Integrate and share data publicly from agencies and tribal nations to inform cumulative water pollution prevention programs.
  • Expand tools and resources to improve state and local water quality policy and regulation.
  • Share best practices and focus on implementing practices proven to effectively address water pollution.
  • Identify opportunities where solutions to housing insecurity can also address fecal pollution from people experiencing homelessness or with inadequate access to sanitary services.

Climate Change

  • Incorporate climate impacts into TMDL studies and plans.
  • Recognize the value of long-term data collection, including inspection data, for incorporating climate effects into water quality studies.
What We're Measuring

We are achieving our recovery goals of healthy human populations, healthy water quality, increasing functioning habitat, and thriving species and food web by ensuring that all onsite septic systems (OSS) are inventoried, inspected, maintained, and operational; reducing disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria and viruses in stormwater runoff from residential and commercial lands, agricultural land, and recreational and outdoor activities; ensuring that levels and patterns of contamination in fish and shellfish harvested from Puget Sound waters and levels and patterns of pollutants and biotoxins in surface waters do not threaten the health of Puget Sound communities or vulnerable populations. Indicators of success include:

Onsite septic system compliance
Onsite septic system failures
Onsite septic system inventory: documented systems
Onsite septic system inventory: suspected systems

Number of onsite septic systems compliant with local inspection mandates

Number of onsite septic systems with unresolved failures

Number of onsite septic systems inventoried with their relevant local health jurisdiction

Number of suspected onsite septic systems without documentation

Onsite septic system inventory: suspected systems

No reported data available

Current Legislative Actions