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First big rain gets county primed to examine water pollution impacts


Ron Wierenga, Environmental Services
Phone: (360) 397-2121, ext. 4264

Rod Swanson, Environmental Services
Phone: (360) 397-2121, ext. 4581

Vancouver, WA – Have you been secretly, thinking “I wish it would rain,” after the extra long dry spell this year? If so, you’re not alone!

Weather forecasters are calling for the first major storm of the season, and Clark County Environmental Services just can’t wait for it to begin. Staff from the Clean Water program will rush out with the first rain to examine runoff carrying pollutants to creeks, streams and rivers.

The first rain after a long dry spell provides an exceptional opportunity to measure levels and types of pollutants in runoff. Many of the pollutants come from litter, motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers and other contaminants that wash off hard surfaces and into local waters.

“The data really helps decide which water quality projects are needed and how existing projects are working,” said Ron Wierenga, Environmental Services program manager. “Healthy streams support quality habitat for important species, such as salmon and trout.”

There are many types of facilities to manage stormwater within Clark County that are publicly and privately owned. These include detention basins, rain gardens and wetlands to slow water that may cause erosion and reduce the amount of harmful material ending up in streams.

County crews will gather water samples for laboratory analysis this weekend if the forecast turns out to be accurate and rainfall meets criteria for monitoring to proceed. Environmental Services shares its findings with the Washington Department of Ecology, uses the data to estimate the amounts of pollutants from county storm drains, uses the information to inform the public about the types of pollutants, such a weed killers and fertilizers found in runoff.

“This will be the start of what we call the “First Flush,” said Wierenga. “The public may also notice changes in the creeks and streams. For example, there may be foam or sheens in some places. Some of this is naturally occurring and not necessarily harmful.”

To learn more, visit the county website at or call (360) 397-2121.

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