The Hammer

The Hammer, Vol. XXX (b)

Exposure to waterborne toxins in full local bloom
August 10, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.
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Updated August 10, 2022 at 9:05 p.m.

By RON JUDD
Executive Editor

An Update On That Bloom: Upon further reflection in the murky waters, and a discussion with some county folks, The Hammer feels like he didn't explain his objections to the approach to testing for cyanotoxins in local lakes clearly in a previous take, below. In fact, it was rather sloppy.

Specifically: No one expects health officials to constantly sample clean, non-algae-present waters to test for cyanotoxins, which can be damaging or lethal to pets or humans. That would be especially impractical in a large body of water such as Lake Whatcom.

But the Point Remains: The county can, and should, be more aggressive about monitoring local waterways for algae blooms, and then conduct testing immediately to check for toxic algae once blooms are detected. It's the Hammer's experience from hanging out for decades on local lakes that this is neither past nor present practice in Whatcom County.  A little urgency for an increasingly urgent problem goes a long way.

Now Back: To the previous programming, revised for clarity of message. And with a bit more to say about that Port of Bellingham decision on future waterfront development ... 

Summertime, and the Bloomin’s Easy: Although it can happen year-round, summer is prime time in these parts for algae blooms in local lakes, some potentially including the sort of harmful cyanotoxins that can be deadly to pets or humans. The trick: Not all blooms visible on the water are toxic, and some can be on one day and not another. Only way to tell: test the waters promptly anytime algae blooms are detected.

Additional Humble Suggestions: Monitor and/or conduct at least occasional timely testing of waters known to create seasonal algae blooms. Promptly post public warnings after any positive test, and even warn away people and pets when nontoxic algae is present, because it can turn toxic swiftly and without visible changes.

Alas: A previous means to expedite this testing process, namely a state Department of Ecology program that allowed citizens to collect water samples themselves and ship to a Bellevue lab for testing, apparently has been dropped.

The Point: Local folks are stubbornly stuck on the notion that public health, to be protective, should be proactive. Status quo is ill-advised on a warming planet.

Titanic, Still Sinking: The Hammer really, really hates to say he told you so, but on July 23, he opined: 

Quite a bit of "Bham Buzz" in favor of the one proposal to expand the existing building into a new YMCA headquarters with a more state-of-the-art aquatic center. This one, with the unique and for the Port, perhaps unprecedented, feature of actually solving a local problem, appears to have some serious civic momentum. You all know what that means. It was good while it lasted.

And Then: On Tuesday, the Port’s brain trust, unsurprisingly, voted unanimously for a 74-room “boutique hotel” and convention center. Just what we needed!

Seriously, It Is: Just the other day The Hammer was hangin' down at the Little Cheerful and heard at least a dozen local 'hamsters observe that what the town really, really needed was a boutique waterfront hotel. It's the missing link to a full-on nonworking waterfront theme.

We Smell a Disconnect: In a serious vein, Port Commissioners seem to feel that their Prime Directive with the waterfront project is to recoup as much and as quickly as possible public money already spent on the cleanup of decades worth of toxins left at and around the old G-P pulp mill site. And clearly, they see the quickest way to do that is to milk the cash cow of tourism. Any local folks want to weigh on that? (You did elect these people, remember.)

Oh, Wait: You have. Over and over and ... 

Also: We're quite curious to know whether, or how quickly, advancement of the boutique hotel plan will shove aside the present highest/best public use, namely the pump track bicycle venue at Waypoint Park, and surrounding shipping-crate hospitality cluster. Do we really expect the operator of a boutique hotel to have that sort of rusted-steel frivolity playing out in the backyard? 

Chip Off the Old Pork Barrel: Just like U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, B. Hammer was thrilled to hear Tuesday morning about the presidential signing of the federal CHIPS Act. But TBH, he was expecting that, for $53 billion, Washingtonians would be getting some government-funded Tim's Cascades out of the whole thing.

And Finally: Sezhere that one of the concerns with a controversial proposed gravel mine in Skagit County is the continued existence of local Oregon spotted frogs. Note to amphib fans: The Oregon spotted frog can be distinguished by its inability to pump its own gas.


The Hammer is swung on Wednesdays and updated as needed. This version was updated to elaborate on Whatcom County and state policies on testing of local lakes for cyanotoxins.

Have a news tip? Email newstips@cascadiadaily.com or Call/Text 360-922-3092

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