The Arcata Bay Bacteria Source Tracking Project is the next phase of a long-term strategy to restore water quality by identifying the primary sources of bacteria pollution in Arcata Bay and several of its tributary streams. Using genetic analysis, gut bacteria from human, dog, cattle, and bird hosts will be quantified at six sample sites during three sampling events.
From 2005 to 2012, Baykeeper volunteers sampled streams to document the levels of various pollutants in stormwater before, during, and after First Flush, the first major storm in the fall. In 2010, we submitted five years of data to support designating six streams as impaired by bacteria. These streams were added to the Clean Water Act’s Section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2015, compelling the State to take action to restore and protect water quality.
In 2012, we shifted our focus to bacteria pollution, since our results showed widespread high levels of indicator bacteria. In 2015, the Regional Water Board began sampling dozens of North Coast streams to identify the sources of bacteria pollution using genetic markers for gut bacteria from human, dog, bird and ruminants such as cattle, deer, and elk. The Humboldt and Sonoma County Public Health Labs became the first non-commercial labs in the State to offer this analysis to the public.
In 2015, we conducted focused studies of Janes Creek and Little River to identify the sources and locate hotspots of bacteria. Our study was folded into the larger Regional Water Board study, which was completed in 2019. The draft reports have yet to be finalized and released to the public (but we have the data and the draft reports).
In 2020, we began sampling in Jolly Giant Creek, an Arcata Bay tributary with high levels of human bacteria identified in the 2019 study. This research was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic after just one sampling event. The Regional Water Board took over that study, and sampling is ongoing.