SILVERDALE — A three-day delay in reporting a sewage spill at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor last week forced the recall of more than 2,000 oysters harvested at a tribal shellfish farm in Dyes Inlet, according to the state Department of Health.
Mark Toy with the department said a recall was required for 2,040 oysters grown at a Suquamish Seafoods facility in Chico, which were harvested between the time the spill occurred on Jan. 18 and 19, and when public health officials were notified of the spill Monday. Suquamish Seafoods and the Department of Health confirmed all the recalled oysters were accounted for and none reached consumers.
Kitsap Public Health District issued an advisory Monday warning residents to avoid contact with portions of Clear Creek and Dyes Inlet downstream from the spill. On Wednesday, health officials were still trying to untangle the miscommunication that caused the delay in notification.
"The more timely we receive these notifications, the better the job we can do providing information to the public about things that could harm their health," health district environmental health director John Kiess said. "We don't want to see the public exposed to pathogens, whether it's through recreational contact with the water or consumption of potentially tainted shellfish."
According to accounts provided by the various agencies involved, the Navy reported the spill to the state Department of Ecology after 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, and at least attempted to contact Kitsap Public Health District but apparently did not reach a district staff member. The Navy contacted the health district with additional information about the spill on Monday and the health district relayed information to the Department of Health.
The sewage system at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor operates under an Environmental Protection Agency permit and has different requirements for reporting spills than sewage systems overseen by local agencies, which operate under state permits. The Navy is not required by law to notify the health district or Department of Health when spills occur.
"However, we want to continue to be good neighbors by sharing information with the Kitsap County Health District, or any other partner agency we work with on a regular basis," Naval Base Kitsap spokesman Jake Chappelle said in an email.
An EPA spokesman confirmed Wednesday the Navy had met the requirements of the Clean Water Act in its reporting of the spill.
84,000 gallons spilled
Navy representatives said the sewage leak began sometime on Jan. 18 when a power failure at a pump station near the base's Trigger Avenue gate caused sewage to back up and spill from a pipe. A temporary repair halted the spill on Jan. 19. The pump station is monitored by Navy utilities contractor Chugach.
During the leak, untreated effluent flowed into a fork of Clear Creek, which runs south through Silverdale and empties into Dyes Inlet. Chappelle said the volume of the spill was estimated at 84,000 gallons, though the majority of the effluent spilled was graywater, or wastewater without fecal matter.
Test results released by the health district Wednesday showed Clear Creek met water quality standards. A no-contact advisory remains in effect through Friday for portions of the creek and Dyes Inlet. The commercial shellfish harvest closure in Dyes Inlet will also continue through Friday.
Toy at the Department of Health said sewage spills like the one reported at Bangor can trigger immediate commercial shellfish closures and recalls to protect public health. The state doesn't wait for sampling to confirm the presence of toxins because tests can take days to process and shellfish from the affected area need to be recalled before they reach consumers.
"With sewage spills we have to act pre-emptively," Toy said. "We don't have time to do sampling before it hits the marketplace."
Suquamish Tribe spokeswoman April Leigh said the delay in reporting the spill was troubling but added that Suquamish Seafoods was able to respond quickly after being notified of the shellfish closure.
“The Suquamish Seafoods recall process was successful," Leigh said. “The good news is, we were able to account for and recall all the oysters.”