Sumas-Blaine aquifer is not the source for Blaine, Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Jul 4, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

Read More News

City of Blaine and Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) officials want to assure local residents that contamination issues in the Sumas-Blaine aquifer will not affect the water supplied to the two communities.

Despite the name, the Sumas-Blaine aquifer encompasses an area well east of the city, closer to the Lynden area, Blaine public works director Ravyn Whitewolf said. The city gets its water from a handful of wells in the uplands of east Blaine, closer to the U.S./Canadian border, Whitewolf explained.

“So [the Sumas-Blaine aquifer] is just an unfortunate title, over which we have no control,” Whitewolf said.

Whitewolf was asked to address concerns about the aquifer raised by Blaine City Council members at their June 25 city council meeting. Council members wanted more information about a report the state department of ecology (DOE) recently released detailing nitrate contamination issues in the Sumas-Blaine aquifer.

“There are no nitrate issues with the city of Blaine’s water,” Whitewolf told council members. “That’s the most important message.”

According to the DOE report, between 18,000 and 27,000 people in Whatcom County east of Blaine rely on the Sumas-Blaine aquifer for their drinking water. The findings of the report, which summarizes 30 years’ of monitoring data for DOE staff updating water quality regulations for large livestock operations, show 29 percent of the 515 wells sampled have higher than acceptable levels of nitrate for drinking water.

Nitrate contamination likely comes from the heavy agriculture use in the study area. Nitrates are often found in fertilizer and likely leach through the sandy soil in the Lynden area into the area’s water table, which is no more than 10 feet underground in some areas.

Blaine and Birch Bay’s water supply, however, comes from wells that are as deep as 700 feet and are covered by clay layers that prevent contamination from above, BBWSD manager Roger Brown said. Water quality reports for both Blaine and Birch Bay consistently show nitrate levels at less than one tenth of the minimum required by state law.

“[Nitrate contamination] just isn’t characteristic of this area at all,” Brown said.

Additionally, Blaine’s wells sit in higher elevations than the Sumas-Blaine aquifer, Whitewolf said. This means water from the affected aquifer could never flow up hill to contaminate any of Blaine’s wells.

“If anything, customers are benefiting from our good water,” Whitewolf said.