One source of harbor detergents in San Juans found

An incorrectly plumbed sink at Sweet Retreat on Spring Street is believed to be a cause of detergents detected in the harbor.

Town Administrator King Fitch said the water tests conducted by the town detected “spikes” in detergent levels in the harbor on June 19 and July 10. Working his way up Spring Street to locate the detergent source, street leadman Dave Smith discovered a wash sink at Sweet Retreat that drains directly into the harbor, rather than into the town’s wastewater system. This was confirmed with dye testing.

Fitch said the property’s owner has been notified and is working to correct the plumbing mishap.

“We’ve found that one. There may be more,” Fitch said Thursday of the detergent issue.

Dr. Mike Kaill, manager of the Spring Street Aquarium, raised the issue of detergents in the harbor in spring, after several aquarium animals died. Water tests he conducted in the aquarium and in the harbor detected detergent levels high enough to kill certain sea life. On May 13, a water sample from the stormwater outfall at Spring Street contained 1.4 parts per million of detergent; a concentration of 1.6 ppm will kill rainbow trout in 96 hours, he reported.

The town is still trying to identify other sources of detergent.

Seattle Public Utilities loans free car wash kits to groups and organizations hosting benefit car washes. "The soapy water, dirt and phosphates drain into storm drains and ditches that lead straight to creeks and into Puget Sound," the city states on its Web site. "You can prevent this harm to wildlife by using the fish-friendly car wash kit."

Car wash kits work by redirecting polluted water -- full of soap, grime and oil -- away from the storm drain and into a hose that connects to a toilet, sink, or drain on site. Toilets and sinks send the dirty water to the water treatment plant, where these pollutants are processed and safety removed from the water.

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