Nearby construction may have caused milky water in Padden Creek


milky water

Department of Transportation environmental compliance officer Dave Davies takes a water sample from Padden Creek south of Old Fairhaven Parkway in Bellingham Wednesday, July 10, 2013, to test after the water in the creek was found to be discolored. Investigators believe the discoloring is from a construction site further up the creek.


BELLINGHAM - Department of Ecology crews were investigating discolored water in Padden Creek believed to be related to construction Wednesday, July 10.

A person walking through Fairhaven Park at about 8 p.m. Tuesday reported seeing milky-looking water in the creek. Crews from the city, the Department of Ecology and the Washington Department of Transportation were investigating the water issue Wednesday.

The water's pH tested at 7, neutral and normal for the creek, Ecology spokesman Dustin Terpening said. The milkiness appears to be caused by sediment getting in the water that runs underground and around the 120-year-old tunnel that much of the creek passes through, Terpening said.

Turbidity levels for the water that comes up at the end of the tunnel were about 30 times higher than the water running through the tunnel. High levels of sediment in water can be harmful to fish, getting into gills and making it difficult to see in water and or to lay eggs.

The Department of Transportation has been working to put in a bridge on Old Fairhaven Parkway so that the creek can return to its original channel and be routed away from the tunnel. On Tuesday, crews had drilled and poured a 35-foot-deep shaft near the tunnel, DOT spokesman Dave Chesson said. There was no indication of any issues during the work, he said, and it did not breach the tunnel.

Terpening said that the shaft work may have loosened some sediment that could then be getting into below-ground water near the tunnel.

DOT crews avoided working near the tunnel Wednesday, and Chesson said that sediment levels were dissipating.

There is no discussion of a fine at this point because the muddy water doesn't appear to have been caused by any negligence of the contractor, Terpening said.

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