Puget Sound
4:11 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Puget Sound Gets Troubling Report Card On Sediment Contamination

Studying the muck at the bottom of Puget Sound is an excellent way to tell how healthy the Sound is. The Department of Ecology took samples from around Puget Sound back in 1998 and then compared them with samples taken from the same area ten years later. And now the results are in.

Samples were collected at sites from Tacoma up to the Southern tip of Whidbey Island.
Samples were collected at sites from Tacoma up to the Southern tip of Whidbey Island.
Credit Iwanafish / Wikimedia Commons

Do you ever remember getting a bad report card? The kind of report card you’d purposefully leave in the bottom of your backpack, underneath the dirty lunchbox in the hopes that your parents wouldn’t notice it?

The Department of Ecology just released that kind of a report card on Puget Sound. 

Ecology analyzed the muck for 133 potentially toxic chemicals - including flame retardants, mercury and PCBs. The samples were collected at sites from Tacoma up to the Southern tip of Whidbey Island.

Back in 1998, 4 percent of the study area had contamination levels that didn’t meet state standards. Fast forward to 2008 and the contaminated area had almost tripled.

Here’s another comparison. Back in 1998, Ecology studied the populations of invertebrates – like mollusks and worms. They’re a key part of the food web. They found that those creatures were being negatively impacted in 7 percent of the study area.

Ten years later the impacted area was four times as large.

Chemical contamination near the cities of Seattle and Tacoma showed some improvement. But overall the report concludes with this message: The declining sediment quality seen almost everywhere throughout Puget Sound should be a concern for environmental managers.

Copyright 2013 KUOW