State to begin health tests of popular Peninsula saltwater beaches

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The state soon will begin testing popular saltwater beaches for bacteria to prevent people from getting sick from playing in the water.

The federally funded, state-run BEACH — Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health — Program notifies the public when beaches are a health risk, and educates people about ways to avoid getting sick from playing in saltwater.

Beaches proposed for monitoring in Jefferson County are at Fort Worden State Park, Irondale County Park and Herb Beck Marina.

In Clallam County, monitoring is proposed for Cline Spit County Park, Hollywood Beach and Salt Creek Recreation Area.

Makah reservation beaches — Dakwas Park, East Front Street, Hobuck, Sooes, Third, Neah Bay and Warmhouse Beach — also are on the list to be tested.

The Makah’s program is funded by a separate grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The program is accepting public comments about the proposed list until May 20.

Bacteria sources can include sewer overflows, discharges from unmaintained septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, sewage spills and animal faces.

Contact with fecal-contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses, the state Department of Health said, and children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

“The BEACH program is the best source of information for saltwater beach health in the state of Washington,” said Christopher Clinton, acting coordinator of the BEACH Program.

“Our partnerships with local health departments, universities, local volunteers and tribes are the strength of the BEACH Program,” he added.

The local partners collect weekly samples to look for fecal pollution and the BEACH Program notifies the public when there are problems.

The program is jointly coordinated by the state departments of Ecology and Health.

The annual May-through-September project is implemented by local health agencies, tribal nations, university coordinators, non-profits, and volunteers.

The BEACH Program posts signs to notify people when there is a higher risk of illness at our most popular saltwater beaches. The program sends timely email notifications and social media posts to inform the public when beach health problems arise.

While the main goal is to monitor water quality and notify the public when bacteria levels are high, BEACH also works with local and state partners to investigate and correct the problems whenever possible.

To see the list of beaches proposed for testing, go to www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/.

Comments can be sent to Clinton at christopher.clinton@ecy.wa.gov or by phone at 360-407-6154.

To get email alerts about beach status, see http://tinyurl.com/chhleeg.

Last modified: April 29. 2013 6:12PM
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