Skokomish Tribe upgrades water quality lab

Charlene Nelson, Shoalwater Bay Tribe chair and Guy Miller, Skokomish Tribe chairman, finalize the Skokomish Tribe’s purchase of water quality lab equipment from the Shoalwater Bay Tribe.

Charlene Nelson, Shoalwater Bay Tribe chair and Guy Miller, Skokomish Tribe chairman, finalize the Skokomish Tribe’s purchase of water quality lab equipment from the Shoalwater Bay Tribe.

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Skokomish Tribe is upgrading its water quality lab to a state-of-the-art facility.

The tribe recently purchased high-end water quality lab equipment from the Shoalwater Bay Tribe to conduct more sophisticated work, such as looking for cancer-causing compounds.

“It’s a major deal for Hood Canal,” said Ron Figlar Barnes, the Skokomish Tribe’s EPA coordinator. “It’s an opportunity for tribes within Hood Canal and Puget Sound to have close access to this type of equipment and help everyone. We’re bringing high-end water quality equipment to a more centrally located area.”

The Shoalwater Tribe used the equipment to research toxins causing reproductive issues with its tribal members. The tribe tested a variety of sources, including water, soil, tissue, marine animals and finfish, looking for compounds that are toxic, such as flame retardants and PCBs.

“We haven’t had a need for it lately though, so now we’re able to pass it on to someone else,” said Gary Burns, director of Shoalwater Bay Tribe’s environmental program.

Without the new equipment, the Skokomish Tribe could test water samples only for dissolved oxygen, e.coli, phosphorus, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia  The tests help alert the tribe to any potential water quality problem in the Skokomish River and potentially Hood Canal. The tribe still has to send off water samples to be tested for fecal coliform but hopes to do it in-house in the future.

“Once the advanced lab is set up, which is expected to be within a year, the tribe will be able to expand testing to include fish and shellfish tissue,” said Figlar Barnes.

“We’re not going to limit ourselves,” said Guy Miller , the Skokomish Tribe Chairman. “We’re going to use it in every way we can to help our people, our community and our natural resources.”