SANTA MONICA, CA (Tuesday, September 27, 2011) – Pacific Northwest ocean users enjoyed a second consecutive summer of very good water quality, according to the 2011 End of Summer Beach Report Card released by Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica-based environmental group that tracks bacterial pollution along the entire western coast of the United States.
The report analyzed water quality data collected between Memorial Day and Labor Day at 240 monitoring locations in Oregon and Washington, issuing an A-to-F grade to each beach based on levels of bacterial pollution. The lower the grade, the greater the risk of an ocean user contracting an illness from contact with the water.
Oregon beaches exhibited excellent water quality grades statewide this summer, with all 14 regularly monitored beaches receiving A grades. On the downside, the state monitors 28 beaches during the summer, but only half of the locations are monitored frequently enough (once a week) to receive a grade.
Unfortunately, only two out of Oregon’s seven coastal counties monitor sufficiently enough to be included in the report. Heal the Bay looks forward to working with Oregon agencies to increase the number of monitoring locations covered in the report in order to protect the health of ocean users statewide.
Washington beaches were also very clean, with 89% of the monitored beaches receiving A and B grades. That figure marks a 4% dip from last summer. Some 24 out of 226 monitoring locations (10.6%) received fair-to-poor water quality grades – five C’s and 19 F’s.
The following monitoring locations received failing grades both last summer and this summer: Oak Harbor City Beach Park (west) in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island; Freeland County Park Holmes Harbor (east), also on Whidbey Island; and Pomeroy Park’s Manchester Beach (north) in Kitsap County.
Oak Harbor City Beach is located in a highly developed area where stormwater may be contributing to elevated bacteria levels, according to the state’s Department of Ecology. Pomeroy may be impacted by fecal contamination from boats and/or wet weather runoff from a large suburban area that drains to the beach, the state agency says.
Heal the Bay has a 26-year history of collaborating with local officials to help identify causes and potential solutions to high bacteria counts.
To its credit, the state of Washington added 31 beaches this summer to its water quality monitoring program. It now encompasses 81 beaches with 226 monitoring locations. (Typically each beach contains three monitoring locations.)
“Beachgoers in Washington and Oregon can take pride that in very strong water quality grades,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “We look forward to working with local agencies to widen the scope of reporting as much as possible and to remedy the pockets of pollution that do pop up.”
Heal the Bay has graded more than 500 California beaches in two decades, helping protect the health of millions of ocean goers each year. Building on that success, program managers expanded reporting to Washington and Oregon beaches in 2010.
As a point of comparison, 92% of California’s 447 beaches monitored this summer received A or B grades this summer. Los Angeles County consistently earns the lowest water quality grades along the western coast of the United States.
High bacteria counts can be due to a number of sources, but frequently are connected to runoff from rainfall. Swimming in polluted water can cause upper respiratory infections, stomach flus, skin rashes and ear infections.
Heal the Bay recommends staying out of the water for 72 hours following any rainstorm, and staying at least 100 yards from any outfall pipe, stream or creek entering the ocean.
About our new Water Quality Mobile App
Beachgoers can view Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card from any computer, or download a Beach Report Card mobile app for their iPhone or Android, at www.beachreportcard.org
The new, free Beach Report Card app provides the only access anytime and anywhere to a comprehensive, weekly analysis of coastline water quality. The mobile app provides A through F grades, weather conditions and user tips for more than 650 beach locations in California, Oregon and Washington at the fingertips of those who swim, surf and play at the beach.
Beachgoers can check updated weekly grades using a searchable online database Heal the Bay offers as a free public service. Beachgoers can find out which beaches are safe and unsafe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures.
About the Beach Report Card
Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible by the generous support of the Diller-vonFurstenberg Family Foundation, simplehuman®, LAcarGuy, Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), and the Grousbeck Family Foundation. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is in its 21st year.
Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use science, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.