ALLYN, Wash. -- Each winter, heavy rains send a torrent of human and animal waste into Puget Sound. It comes in from farm fields, storm sewers and front yards. The bacteria threatens environmental and human safety, forcing closures for shellfish operations and other uses.
Biologists now think they may have found a secret weapon to combat the problem and it's as close as your favorite pizza. The fungus that produces mushrooms is a known bacteria eater.
The Squaxin Island tribe and other groups are now testing the ability of that fungus to filter contaminated storm water runoff and sewer overflows before they enter parts of Puget Sound. If it works, responders could fill ditches and other spill pathways with sandbags containing a living fungus that would eat up the bacteria.
Scientists have known for years the fungus effectively consumes bacteria like fecal coliform, but if it proves successful as a filter for contaminated storm water, it could be thousands of dollars cheaper than the expensive treatments they use today.