State seeks beach monitoring advice

With less money than last year, the state is narrowing its beach monitoring program and asking for the public’s advice.

Does it have the best list of beaches it should monitor for bacterial contamination this year?

Saltwater beaches can be contaminated from failing septic tanks or animal waste, said Lynn Schneider, program coordinator for BEACH (Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health). The highest human risk, she said, is during the first rain after a dry spell.

“It’s similar to when you wash your driveway off; all of that built up dirt drains off of it,” Schneider said.

This summer, the program will test Washington’s most popular beaches and notify the public when bacteria results are high.

Testing for Whidbey Island began this week. Island County Environmental Health Specialist Kathleen Parvin said the three monitored beaches are Oak Harbor City Beach Park, Freeland County Park and Oak Harbor Lagoon.

The west end of City Beach is the most problematic and a yellow advisory sign will warn people not to swim there.

“That area has two stormwater outfalls and bird roosts,” Parvin said. “When I tested there yesterday, I saw about 300 seagulls.”

Areas of Freeland County Park will remain closed again this year for swimming and shellfish harvesting because of stormwater drainages.

Samples from Tuesday showed that Oak Harbor Lagoon is testing great and will be flushed by tidewater June 16.

An Ecology press release said that the BEACH monitoring program will look at 53 state beaches this summer; the number is down from 63 last year and 72 the year before. Each year the list is modified when it’s discovered that some beaches are cleaner than others.

To keep bacteria off the beaches, Schneider recommended that people check their on-site sewage system to make sure it’s working properly and trash their dog waste.

For comments on the departments’ list or notifications about the status of water conditions, visit


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