1994 Puget Sound Update

The 1994 Puget Sound Updatethe fifth annual summary report of this programevaluates the data collected by the PSAMP in 1993 (the most recent year for which the data have undergone quality assurance review and interpretation) and compares these data to past information on Puget Sound.

Fecal contamination graphic (page 39)
Fecal contamination graphic (page 39)


Assessing the health of Puget Sound can be likened to working on a jigsaw puzzle. Each year of monitoring adds more pieces and takes us one step closer to being able to see the whole picture. Adding to the complexity of the puzzle is the fact that the picture is constantly changing, due both to natural conditions such as weather patterns and human-related conditions such as population growth.

After five years of monitoring through the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP), the picture of the Sound's long-term health is beginning to take shape. Although we cannot yet draw conclusions about longterm environmental trends, data collected indicates that the health of Puget Sound is generally good, although serious problems exist. Widespread destruction and degradation of natural shoreline areas has greatly decreased the quality and quantity of fish and wildlife habitat. Sediments in many urban bays and along shorelines close to pollutant sources exceed sediment quality standards. In several urban bays, bottomfish exhibit high percentages of liver tumors. Fecal contamination has resulted in the closure of large areas of the Sound to commercial and recreational shellfish harvest. Populations of many species of marine fish and salmonids are decreasing dramatically.

At the same time, the PSAMP has shown that many contamination problems are restricted to fairly small areas near the shorelines and urban bays. Sediment contaminants are generally found in low concentrations in areas distant from shorelines or pollutant sources. While fecal contamination is evident in fresh waters and in nearshore marine waters throughout the Sound where shellfish resources are harvested, the open marine waters of the Sound exhibit lower levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

Designed in 1988 and initiated in 1989, the PSAMP expands on existing monitoring programs and coordinates the collection of information to address the environmental quality of Puget Sound in a comprehensive fashion. The program measures ambient, or background, conditions. In doing so, it complements existing monitoring near direct (point) sources of pollution and in problem areas, and evaluates the degree to which contamination disperses to affect broader areas of the Sound. In addition, the PSAMP is a long-term program designed to address changes in Sound wide conditions over time. PSAMP uses information collected by the program as well as information gathered by other monitoring programs to provide a comprehensive evaluation of environmental conditions in Puget Sound.

Continued monitoring will let us know whether the extent and severity of water quality problems in Puget Sound are increasing over time. 


Puget Sound Water Quality Authority (PSWQA). 1995. 1994 Puget Sound Update: Fifth Annual Report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program. Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. Olympia, WA. 122 pp.

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