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Department of Ecology News Release - May 10, 2007
OLYMPIA - When summer finally hits Western Washington, people will begin gravitating toward the state's saltwater beaches for swimming, surfing, diving, and other recreational activities.
Unfortunately, Washington's saltwater beaches can also be contaminated with bacteria from human and animal waste that can make people sick.
To reduce the risk of people getting sick this summer, the Washington state departments of Ecology and Health are once again leading the BEACH (Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health) monitoring program.
The program protects beachgoers by testing Washington's most popular saltwater beaches for fecal bacteria. It notifies the public when the bacteria results are high, and educates people about what they can do to avoid getting sick from playing in saltwater.
This summer, the program proposes to monitor 63 of the state's most popular saltwater beaches and it's asking the public to help.
"We are looking for Washington residents' help to tell us if we have the best list of the most popular beaches because we have limited resources to operate this program," said Lynn Schneider, coordinator of the BEACH Program. "The program takes two things into consideration - the popularity of the beach and the potential for the beach to be polluted."
The BEACH program is comprised of state, county and local agencies, tribal nations, volunteers, and residents. It is funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Last year the program helped the state track water quality for 73 beaches, thanks in part to volunteers who pitched in to help. Each year, the program modifies its list of monitored beaches when it discovers that some beaches are cleaner than others. At the same time, the program tracks beaches the public is most likely to use among the more than 900 along Puget Sound and the Washington coast.
Schneider says many but not all sources of bacteria can be prevented. Bacteria can get into swimming beaches from untreated or partially treated discharges from wastewater treatment plants, from septic system failures, from uncollected pet waste, from wildlife, and unknown sources.
The BEACH Program has a website and an email notification "Listserv" that people can subscribe to for notices about the status of water conditions at the state's beaches, facts about recreational water illnesses, and links to resources for more detailed information. The website is located at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/.
Washington residents are invited to comment on the departments' draft list of beaches through June 6. The list is also available at the website by selecting "Beach List."
Send written comments or questions about the program to Schneider at email@example.com or mail them to Lynn Schneider, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47710, Olympia, Wash., 98504-7600.
Nationally, Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week is May 21-27. For more information, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/rwi_prevention_week.htm.
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Media contacts: Sandy Howard, Department of Ecology, 360-407-6408
Donn Moyer, Department of Health, 360-236-4076
BEACH Program website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.html.