1986 State of the Sound

This is the first State of the Sound Report. It summarizes much of what is known about the Puget Sound basin—its history, economy, human population, land uses and other factors influencing its water quality.

State of the Sound 1986 report cover image
State of the Sound 1986 report cover image

Introductory Letter

This report is part of the preparation of a Puget Sound water quality management plan. Having begun work one year ago, the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority must adopt such a plan by January 1,1987. We are part way toward this goal, having undertaken an extensive public involvement program, published nine issue papers, and held numerous formal and informal consultations with governments, organizations, experts and other individuals. An Advisory Committee and a Scientific Review Panel have been working with us throughout the process.

The State of the Sound Report helps lay the groundwork for the Puget Sound plan by summarizing the information upon which a plan must be based. It was prepared with the assistance of Entranco Engineers and a team assembled by them.

What is the state of the Sound? In,the century since urbanization and industrialization of the Sound began, the Sound has been transformed from a relatively pristine body of water to the center of a bustling, heavily populated area. Human activity has damaged the Sound--from destroying over half its wetlands to contaminating its bottom sediments--at the same time that our lives have depended greatly on its tremendous productivity and beauty. Cycles of development have each taken their toll, but we have responded with actions to protect the Sound. Sewage treatment plants, industrial pollution control, the banning of certain chemicals, and regulation to protect wetlands and wildlife have each played a part in slowing degradation of the Sound.

Today, we need to take the next steps. Toxic contamination is severe in parts of the Sound, damaging plants and animals and posing long-term threats to the Sound's health. Because many toxicants persist essentially forever in the environment, and because we now understand how most contaminants stay in the sediments and are never "flushed" away, control and clean-up of toxic chemicals have become urgent tasks. In addition, bacterial and viral contamination have severely restricted the use of our shellfish resources. While these biological forms of pollution are not persistent like toxic chemicals, they are a growing problem because of our expanding population and our increasingly suburban patterns of development.

Looking ahead, we recognize that population growth in the Puget Sound basin will put additional strain on the health of the Sound. Perhaps the most significant challenge we face is to anticipate and prevent problems rather than waiting for them to happen.

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