Snookbrook Farms likely main source of fecal contamination in Terrell Creek

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 4, 2014 

Snookbrook Farms is probably the main source of fecal coliform bacteria that contaminated part of Terrell Creek and caused the beach closure near where the creek empties into the south end of Birch Bay.

The beach has been closed since Jan. 31, after routine sampling Jan. 30 showed very high counts of fecal coliform in the creek from the Kickerville Road bridge down to the creek's mouth.

Fecal coliform bacteria come from human and animal feces.

The dairy's manure storage is at capacity - leading to overflows that eventually reached Terrell Creek, according to Hector Castro, spokesman for the Washington Department of Agriculture.

The department is investigating the incident.

"We think the dairy is likely the main source, but it's still possible we might identify other sources for the high fecal coliform contamination," Castro said.

Seth Snook, who has been operating the dairy on Kickerville Road for the past eight years, said the farm has been working with the agriculture department and Whatcom Conservation District.

"It definitely was an accident. We've been working as hard as we can with those two agencies to correct it," Snook said, adding this marked the first time the farm has had such an incidence in its 51 years.

On Friday, Feb. 28, the agriculture department ordered Snookbrook to:

-- Move enough liquid manure from its storage to ensure there's enough capacity to hold up to 25,000 gallons.

-- Control erosion from a field where it had been spreading some liquid manure.

-- Develop a plan to provide adequate manure storage.

Castro said the dairy's previous efforts weren't taking care of the problem.

"This is not the final say on this particular matter. There could still be enforcement actions that we take later," Castro said.

Snookbrook has until Friday, March 7, to complete all three parts of the order.

People have been told to stay away from the contaminated water in the affected section of Birch Bay because contact could cause gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper-respiratory infections and other illnesses. Pets also should be kept out of the water.

Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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