Holmes Harbor Water Quality

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Holmes Harbor Water Quality

South End of Holmes Harbor Closed to Shellfish Harvesting

The southernmost part of Holmes Harbor was closed in mid-March by the Island County Department of Health (ICDH) following a Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) pollution study of the shellfish growing area.

Water samples from 17 discharge points collected on four separate occasions exceeded fecal coliform standards, four of them consistently high. Two of the four are located at Freeland Park; the other two were found on Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (NBBBI) beach.

Both locations had readings of 2400 fc/100ml on November 3 and October 18,2005, Permissible levels are less than 100fc/100ml. An earlier study* (May of 2004), performed for Island County Public Works by Herrera Environmental Consultants, identified raised levels of pollution at the southern end of Holmes Harbor and requested that the County Commissioners apply for a grant to determine the source. The Commissioners assigned the Planning Department to address pollution levels on a county-wide basis, thus effectively postponing a timely follow-up for both locations at Holmes Harbor.

Now, with State action, these areas will remain unclassified and off-limits until the effects of past and present pollution sources have been assessed and remedied. Meanwhile, both commercial and recreational harvesting of shellfish is prohibited from south of Ships Haven Drive on the west side of Holmes Harbor and across to Twin Oaks Lane because of its possible effect on human health. (The shoreline from the closed boundary line north to just past the Holmes Harbor Golf Course, however, will also continue to be an unclassified area.) Crab harvesting is permitted throughout Holmes Harbor. See the complete survey at the link, below.*

High water from early Feb. 2006 storm on Shoreview Drive in front of NBBBI


Red tide conditions, late summer, 2006. See Documents & News Articles in Nichols Section
for more photos and PI article about non-compliance with enviromental laws and the bottom line.)
Read about causes of red tide at

Status report: January, 2007

Cleaning up Holmes Harbor: Island County is on the short list for a $317,000 grant (the website says $288,000) that will go far in funding the work needed to identify and control sources of bacterial (fecal coliform) contamination present in the Harbor. Last year, the top 25 grant applications were fully funded. We hope you can show your support for this effort and attend the public meeting to be held by The Board of Island County Commissioners on:

Monday, March 5, 2007, 7 pm, Freeland Trinity Lutheran Church

Shellfish Protection District Shortlist. (Prospective grantees are listed by WRIA area; Holmes Harbor is in WRIA 6.)


Status report: November, 2006

State Department of Health (DOH) prepares Holmes Harbor health study. Friends of Holmes Harbor requested the study because of concern about potential contamination of sediment and shellfish in the harbor. Because there's a data gap about exposure to possibly chemically contaminated intertidal shellfish harvests, sediments and beach activities, the hazard to the general population is indeterminate and further sampling of shellfish and sediments is required. (See complete report.) HolmesHarbor-HCdraftfinal1


FYI: It may be that DOH has recommended sampling because, after reviewing NBBBI practices, there is reason to feel that contamination has occurred. Whether it is above public health hazard levels needs to be determined.


Status report: July 2006
A February letter to WA State DOH, Office Environmental Health recaps FOHH’s awareness of Holmes Harbor contamination from both non-point-source pollutants and known business site pollution stemming from Freeland Shopping Center and Nichols Boatyard. It requests DOH evaluation of contamination levels in sediment and shellfish and assessment of possible health risks to the community.

FOHH Letter to DOH re study

Excerpts from the letter:

NBBBI’s first waste water treatment system and infiltration basin was installed in the latter part of 1997. The system was intended to eliminate all discharges to surface water from their shipbuilding processes. The infiltration basin (still in use) is located in a wetland adjacent to the shipyard and the wetland is hydrologically connected to Holmes Harbor via a pipe outfall. Subsequent to the installation, NBBBI expanded their production area without redesigning the system and infiltration basin and without obtaining a new permit from the Department of Ecology (DOE). FOHH found no record of DOE being made aware of the expansion so that adequate inspections of the expanded shipyard could be performed in order to recommend proper sizing of the system and infiltration…[T]here is no record of NBBBI discharges to the wetland or Holmes Harbor prior to issuance of their latest waste discharge permit (Permit No. ST-7396, effective September 1, 2005).

DOE’s ST-7396, issued in September, 2005 “…required NBBBI to increase waste and stormwater storage capacity and to make temporary upgrades until a new system [could] be designed and installed upland from the harbor. Since the temporary upgrades have been installed, NBBBI reported at least five discharges from the infiltration basin to the wetland for the one-month period from November 1 through December 1, 2005….Although requested, no data after December 1, 2005 has been received from DOE.

In addition to the Tulalip Indian request for a DOH shellfish study of the Harbor (the final report not yet available), the DOH has also prepared a Sanitary Survey that details their review of “shoreline sanitary conditions and marine water quality data.” It also defines closure areas. (See the DOH Sanitary Survey report, below.)

WA DOH report 060719
Sanitary Survey Report

The DOH website defines a health assessment as "...an evaluation of a chemical release and how exposure to that release might affect people's health. A health assessment is an evaluation of information related to a hazardous chemical being released into the environment, usually at a hazardous waste site. The evaluation determines whether exposure to that chemical might cause harmful health effects. The Health Advisor, who prepares the assessment, looks at past, present, and future exposures. Once the evaluation is completed, the assessment will have specific recommendations on how to protect public health. There are three sources of information used to evaluation a site...." (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/SAS_ha.htm)

Status report: June, 2006
Following the March closure cited above, the State Department of Ecology conducted a Freeland water quality survey in early April. Of the fifteen samples taken on the creek that traverses the Freeland East Basin from the Shell Station on Highway 525 to Freeland Park, three exceeded the water quality standard of 100 fc/100ml. (DOE Water Quality Survey - April 11, 2006)

Consequently, on or about July 1st, DOH will issue a formal notice of the downgrade and closure of these beaches, followed by a 30-35 day appeal period for interested parties (including Island County), to state why they believe the DOH data is flawed. After the close of the appeal period, Island County has 180 days to form the Shellfish Protection District, including creation of a Closure Response Committee that will include interested parties of the Freeland community. DOH has asked FOHH to be a part of the Closure Response Committee.

To assist in the formulation of our Shelfish Protection District, and so as not to totally "re-create the wheel," FOHH has collected information from Thurston County about their Shellfish District,* what it does, and how it was formed. This can be a starting point for the Committee. We will publish more about this as information becomes available.

Minutes from the BICC meeting where DOH presented information regarding
the DOH survey and formation of a Shellfish Protection District. Please note the very
last section of the minutes to view the discussion regarding the Shellfish Protection District.

*Q and A for Protection District
Thurston County brochure - "Creating a Shellfish Protection District"

Oil Spill clean up letter
Report on early June spill cleanup process

*DOH Shoreline Survey Final
Final report does not include all of the attachments (dwgs, etc.)
that are included in the Draft Report, below.

DOH Survey
This DOH DRAFT Report (3.26 MB) is comprehensive but
slow to load if using 56K modem)

00-01769-004 Freeland WQ assessment
*2004 Herrara Water Quality Report on Freeland for the County

Survey Report Comments
Response by FOHH to Shoreline Report

Letter to ICPCD
Comments and questions re: FOHH Shoreline Report to Is. Cty Planning

Clam hot-spot shut down - May 13, 2006
Type Freeland Park at the link to access article about recent closure due to coliform
contamination at Freeland Park Beach

More links:http://ww4.doh.wa.gov/scripts/esrimap.dll?name=BEACHMON&Co=Island


(Then scroll down to Island County- all beaches are listed.)

Friends of Holmes Harbor
PO Box 493
Freeland, WA 98249
fohh@friendsofholmesharbor.org | 360-321-FOHH (3644)

© 2006 Friends of Holmes Harbor