Good news for oceangoers in the Pacific Northwest: Heal the Bay has revved up reporting of weekly water quality grades for nearly 200 beaches in Washington and Oregon. Starting this June, we will be issuing A to F grades throughout the busy summer beachgoing season.
Like California, Washington and Oregon generally enjoy very good water quality. But troubling pockets of bacterial pollution still dot the shoreline. Contact with polluted water can cause upper respiratory infections, stomach flus, skin rashes and ear infections.
To avoid these kinds of illnesses, beachgoers can check updated weekly grades each Friday at beachreportcard.org. Heal the Bay provides this searchable online database as a free public service. Ocean-going families can find out which beaches are safe and unsafe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures.
In our first weekly report (June 6), all Washington monitoring locations are earning A grades during dry weather. However, there are 10 monitoring locations at three beaches in the state closed due to pollution-related issues: a sewage spill, dairy waste discharge to a creek and one unknown cause of elevated bacteria in marine waters.
In Oregon, 22 monitoring locations are earning A grades during dry weather sampling in the latest weekly report.
In a related move to protect public health, Heal the Bay has just released its annual beach water quality report, which analyzed all the data gathered from monitoring locations throughout the Pacific Northwest in 2013.
The annual report analyzed weekly water quality data collected at 183 beach monitoring locations in Washington and Oregon last summer, issuing an A-to-F grade to each location based on levels of bacterial pollution. The lower the grade, the greater the risk of contracting an illness from water contact.
The report found that Washington exhibited good water during dry weather last summer, with 89% of monitored locations earning A or B grades (a 6% dip from the three-year average). However, a handful of beaches in the state received failing grades: Freeland County Park (D and F grades), Manchester Beach at Pomeroy Park (D and F grades), Allyn Waterfront Park (F grades), and Little Squalicum Park (F grades).
Meanwhile in Oregon, all 11 beach monitoring sites (those monitored frequently enough to earn annual grades in the summary report) received either A or B grades during summer dry weather, indicating that water quality was excellent during the reporting period.
High bacteria counts can be due to a number of sources, but frequently are connected to runoff. Heal the Bay recommends staying out of the water for 72 hours following any significant rainstorm, and staying at least 100 yards from any outfall pipe, stream or creek entering marine recreational waters
“It’s great to see nearly all monitored beaches in Oregon and Washington getting excellent water quality grades,” said Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s director of science and policy for water quality. “But there are problem spots, so it’s critical to check out the Beach Report Card before you and your family visit the shore because a day at the beach should never make you sick.”