Department of Ecology News Release - April 21, 2014

Saltwater beach monitoring begins soon
Public may comment on list of beaches to be tested this summer

OLYMPIA – The state’s BEACH Program will soon begin testing 58 of the state’s most popular saltwater beaches for bacteria to help people avoid 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.

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

Sources of bacteria on beaches include sewer overflows, discharges from unmaintained septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater, and feces from domestic animals, wildlife, and birds.

“Our program’s strength is that we communicate directly to the public about beach closures through email and social media notifications, and with warning signs. If people are paying attention, everybody can have a healthy summer,” said Debby Sargeant, coordinator of the BEACH Program.

An example is the program’s blog series, “Fecal Matters,” which contains the latest information about saltwater beach closures and openings.

 “While we sample frequently during summer months, our program is active all year long communicating about beach closures and openings,” Sargeant added.

Local partners are essential to the program’s success ­-- they help collect samples to look for fecal pollution. 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.

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.

The program is accepting public comments about the proposed beach list until May 15. Send your comments to Debby Sargeant at debbie.sargeant@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6139.

Follow Ecology’s Twitter handle @ecologyWA to keep apprised of the latest beach closures. You can also sign up to receive BEACH’s email alerts at:  hhttp://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?A0=BEACH

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Contacts:

Sandy Howard, communications manager, 360-407-6408, @ecologyWA