In order to protect Lake Whatcom and its drinking water for 100,000 people, pollutant levels entering the lake must be reduced substantially, according to a water cleanup plan from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Lake Whatcom is the main source of drinking water for the city of Bellingham and communities around the lake. Now, it has low levels of oxygen, caused by increased levels of phosphorous and fecal bacteria entering the lake.

Ecology has been working with the city of Bellingham and Whatcom County officials to update a 2008 report with strategies to limit pollutants entering the lake.

According to the report, two things need to happen for the lake to meet water quality standards: approximately 87 percent of current development around the lake needs to be able to store and filter stormwater like a forest; and bacteria levels in the most contaminated streams need to be reduced up to 96 percent.

The state is now seeking a public review and comments on the plan for the next 90 days, before submitting it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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