For a couple of centuries, uninformed or neglectful humans showed many signs of loving Puget Sound to death. For the past couple of decades, we appear to be nurturing it back to better health.This is good news for all Washingtonians, including Clark County residents who explore recreational, tourism or second-home opportunities around the sprawling, spectacularly scenic waterway that’s just a couple hours’ drive to the north.
Before we expand on that point, we must acknowledge that the environmental advancements (the result of increased industrial regulations and tighter stormwater runoff policies) are accompanied by a few significant concerns. Bluntly speaking, Puget Sound waters remain far more polluted than any Washingtonian should tolerate. The waterway’s numerous tentacles are as ecologically fragile as ever.
One example emerged recently in a state Department of Ecology report about sediment health in the central Sound, from just south of Whidbey Island to the Tacoma Narrows. A decline in sediment-dwelling invertebrates has been detected in samples taken from the bottom of the Sound in 2008 and 2009. Scientists are unsure if this decline is caused by natural influences such as normal population cycles, sediment movement or changes in dissolved oxygen.
“We don’t measure everything. We measure dozens and dozens of chemicals we are concerned about,” said DOE Program Manager Robb Duff in an Associated Press story, but “there are thousands and thousands of chemicals in commerce today.” And those include emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
All of which helps explain the need for continuing, amply funded research of Puget Sound water quality. The payoffs — both potential and proven — are just too important to ignore. The AP story describes decreases in recent years in concentrations of lead, mercury, silver, tin and other toxic substances in central Sound sediment.