Editorial: Keep your runoff green

We printed good news on the front page last Saturday with the report that the popular wading and swimming spots at Oak Harbor’s Windjammer Park are rated “excellent” in terms of bacteria count. In short, there aren’t any bad bugs in the water, so take the kids to the park and have a great time splashing and swimming.

The news wasn’t so good at the west end of the park where people enjoy the view, the beach and the grass, but few if any swim in the water. Due to the presence of the city’s drainage outfall pipe on the beach, water in the area contains a high level of bacteria. If it gets worse, the boat ramp area may have to be posted as unsafe, as it was during parts of the summer the last two years.

Fortunately, the city is well along in planning a new outfall pipe, one that will carry drain water far out into the bay where any bacteria will be diluted by the sea water and won’t pose a possible health problem. Meanwhile, the city is doing some long-range planning to upgrade or replace the aging sewer plant on the waterfront, which will ultimately resulted in a cleaner Puget Sound.

Residents of the city still need to take more care to see that dangerous pollutants do not literally go down the drain and exit the outfall pipe at the beach. The city has been doing a good job labeling drains with drawings of fish to visually describe the dangers of pouring bad stuff down the drain, such as automobile oil and various poisons used to kill weeds. Elsewhere, the city has placed freely-available plastic bags so dog owners can pick up after their pets. By placing dog droppings in a bag and then throwing it in a proper trash receptacle, a considerable amount of runoff pollution can be easily avoided.

Car washing is another practice that adds pollutants to the drains. Governments have been hesitant to restrict the practice, due to the predictable public backlash. But if you can afford it, wash your car at a commercial facility where the water is cleaned and recycled. If you can’t do that, there are so-called “green” car wash soaps available that may help to some extent. Or just don’t wash your car so often. A dirty car no longer means you’re sloppy, it just means you’re taking care of our beautiful Whidbey Island environment.

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