Fecal coliform levels close beaches at Semiahmoo spit

Published on Thu, Aug 5, 2010
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Following a high fecal coliform count near Blaine’s aging wastewater treatment facility near Semiahmoo, Whatcom County health officials have closed beaches along Semiahmoo spit.

Blaine public works director Steve Banham said the problem is the result of a malfunctioning of a flow-regulated chlorination device that failed to add enough chlorine to the plant’s effluent before it was discharged into Semiahmoo Bay. 

As a result, plant officials detected higher-than-usual fecal coliform levels and alerted the Whatcom County Health Department.

Banham said the problem occured when the city switched nearly 80 percent of its waste water treatment processes to a new membrane filtration water reclaimation facility on Marine Drive.

As a result of switching to processing less than 20 percent of the usual flow, the device malfunctioned.

Plant officials have since fixed the problem but beaches on Semiahmoo spit remain closed.

The closure includes a portion of Semiahmoo spit southwest of Tongue Point (outside of Drayton Harbor) and advises against wading or swimming.

Shellfish harvesting in that area has already been closed because of high or lethal paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) levels.

The plant will continue to process waste water from Semiahmoo until the city constructs a new pump station at same location.

Banham said that project could begin as early next spring depending on how fast the city  is able to get permits. It could be completed as early as summer, 2011.