Environment

What's spewing into the Nooksack River near Ferndale?

City officials say discharge is 'cleaner than the river water it's going into'
September 22, 2022 at 4:52 p.m.

By JULIA LERNER
Staff Reporter

FERNDALE — A 30-inch culvert in the Nooksack River raised alarm bells this week after a resident saw it spewing what looked like murky brown liquid. 

The pipe, about 700 yards south of the Ferndale Wastewater Treatment Plant, appeared to be discharging dirty liquid into the river, prompting significant concern from community members.

“The video on social media inspired a lot of concern,” said Riley Sweeney, the city’s communications officer. “It’s the wastewater treatment plant’s outfall. It’s the pipe that goes from the wastewater treatment plant out into the Nooksack River, and it’s functioning as it’s supposed to.”

The water transported from the plant has already been treated, Sweeney said, and meets the state Department of Ecology water standards. When it enters the Nooksack, though, it often stirs up mud and sediment along the riverbed, which can cause the flow to appear brown. 

“You could put a cup there and drink what comes out of it, if you wanted to,” he said with a laugh. “It’s actually cleaner than the river water it’s going into.”

Wastewater goes through several cleaning and disinfection processes, including screening, aeration, chlorination and dechlorination, before being discharged into the river, according to city planning documents

Nooksack River health is vital for struggling salmon populations, local farmers and tribes, many of whom were concerned about untreated or illegal discharge in the river. 

Members of the Lummi Nation visited the culvert Thursday after residents expressed concerns about river health. 

“The Lummi Nation sent over their water quality guys and we gave them a tour of the wastewater treatment plant,” Sweeney said. “They did some water testing and went back happy.” 

Ferndale’s wastewater treatment plant recently underwent major renovations and expansions, Sweeney said. 

“It was a $30 million project — one of the largest public works projects that we’ve constructed in recent years,” he said. “We have the capacity now to meet our needs as a community for the next 20 years.” 

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

e-Edition


e-edition

Register for email newsletters

* indicates required
Preferences:

Latest Stories


GOVERNMENT
Port hears South Hill neighborhood’s noise complaints
Commission seeks to strike balance between noise, jobs

LAW & JUSTICE
Legislators offer high-speed, low-speed approaches to pursuit reform
Many Democrats prefer more deliberative approach

PREP/COLLEGE
State berths, key late-season contests close out January
Bowlers head to state, other winter sports prep for district tournaments

ENVIRONMENT
Funding for WA national parks to support 40-plus projects
North Cascades to receive $114,000 for infrastructure, studies

COMMUNITY
Helping Hands Thrift Store supports needs across the county
Find basic needs and friendly faces, all for 50 cents