BEACH Program

2016 BEACH Program Report

Whatcom County

Four beaches in Whatcom County were monitored in 2016. Birch Bay County Park and Port of Bellingham Marine Park were sampled every other week from May 23 through August 29, 2016. Larrabee State Park and Little Squalicum Park were sampled weekly during the same time period. Results are presented in the following table. Details on each beach are in the text below.

Bacteria Results Compared to Standards Geometric Mean 90th Percentile
EPA Swimming Standard ≤ 35 ≤ 276
Birch Bay County Park Beach 11 17
Larrabee State Park Beach 15 30
Little Squalicum State Park Beach 22 77
Port of Bellingham Marine Park Beach 12 22

Birch Bay County Park Beach

Birch Bay County Park beach was sampled eight times during the sample season. Water quality at this beach was excellent with bacteria levels meeting swimming standards during all periods sampled.

Larrabee State Park Beach

Larrabee State Park Beach

Larrabee State Park Beach

This beach has had bacterial water quality problems for the past several years and a permanent swimming advisory is in place. The likely source of the bacterial contamination is a raccoon latrine at the headwaters of a small stream that drains to this beach. Bacterial source control efforts have been ongoing, including a public education effort at the park and surrounding neighborhoods.

In early 2014, raccoon access to a portion of their latrine was blocked off by laying chicken wire over the latrine area. This has appeared to be effective at reducing the volume of raccoon feces, therefore, it is important to maintain the chicken wire to continue preventing raccoon access to the stream headwaters.

During the 2016 swim season, Larrabee State Park beach had very good water quality. This beach met the swimming standards for all periods sampled. The 2016 monitoring season was unusually dry and the natural drainage (sample site WHA 034F-ND) was dry for most of the summer. As a result, fresh water input to this beach was limited to the early season. Whatcom County Health Department is considering removing the permanent advisory at this beach. This decision will be made after consulting with the Larrabee State Park Manager.


Little Squalicum Park Beach

Little Squalicum beach has consistent low to moderate bacteria levels, with occasional high bacteria spikes. A permanent swimming advisory is in place for this beach. Little Squalicum Park beach was sampled 15 times during the sample season.

During the 2016 swim season there was an improvement in water quality. On June 14th, sampling results were in the advisory range, but results from samples taken on June 20th showed that bacteria results had dropped back down into the safe swimming range. This beach met the swimming standards for all other periods sampled and seasonally met the geometric mean and 90th percentile for the recreational swimming standard. Although Little Squalicum met the swimming standard for 2016, it did not meet the standard for the previous two years. Therefore, the swimming advisory will stay in place pending additional data collection at this beach.

Port of Bellingham Marine Park Beach

Port of Bellingham Marine Park beach was sampled eight times during the sampling season. Water quality at this beach was excellent with bacteria levels meeting swimming standards during all periods sampled.

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