Summer Water Quality Excels at Oregon and Washington Beaches
But 12 sites graded D or F; cuts to testing programs put swimmers at risk
Just in time for the last hurrah of summer, beachgoers in the Pacific Northwest can head to the shore this Labor Day secure that they’ll be swimming and playing in healthy water. According to the 2013 End of Summer Beach Report Card® issued today by environmental group Heal the Bay, beach water quality in Oregon and Washington was excellent for the fourth consecutive summer.
Heal the Bay’s latest survey analyzed water quality data collected between Memorial Day and Aug. 21, 2013 at more than 190 monitoring locations in Oregon and Washington. A-to-F grades were issued to each beach based on levels of bacterial pollution. This summer Washington exhibited very good water quality with 91% A or B grades, while Oregon earned all A grades for the fourth consecutive year.
In Washington, however, a few pockets of polluted beaches do pose health risks during the summer beach season. A dozen monitoring locations statewide scored D or F grades in this summer’s report, while five more received C grades. The following beaches received failing marks: Holmes Harbor (Freeland County Park) for the fourth consecutive summer; Pomeroy Park (Manchester Beach) in Kitsap County; Allyn Waterfront Park (mid and north) and Potlatch State Park in Mason County; and Little Squalicum Park (mid) in Whatcom County.
Poor water quality is often found at beaches near flowing storm drains, piers and enclosed water bodies with inadequate circulation. The worse grade a location received, the greater the risk of such serious illness as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes.
On the positive side, 91% of Washington’s monitoring locations received A or B grades. This year Washington monitored 194 monitoring locations at 64 beaches (typically each beach contains three monitoring locations). Of these monitoring locations, 180 were monitored frequently enough (at least weekly) to be included in this report.
The following counties received all A or B grades for the fourth year in a row: Clallam, Grays Harbor and Thurston. This summer swimming season, Jefferson and Snohomish counties also earned all A or B grades.
The State of Oregon exhibited excellent water quality this summer, earning all A grades for the fourth consecutive year. Oregon monitored 42 monitoring locations throughout the state, but only 11 (26%) of locations were monitored enough (at least once a week) to receive a grade. Only two of seven coastal counties in Oregon were monitored on a weekly basis. Heal the Bay looks forward to working with Oregon agencies to increase monitoring frequency, as well as the number of sampling locations.
For a county-by-county breakdown with information on regional trends and specific beaches, please visit healthebay.org/brcsummer.
In a bid to protect public health, Heal the Bay updates water quality grades each week in a searchable, online database. Beachgoers can find out which beaches are safe and unsafe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures. Ocean users can access grades from any computer, or download a free Beach Report Card mobile app for their iPhone or Android, at www.beachreportcard.org.
While beachgoers can bask in this summer’s generally high grades, proposed funding cuts by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) may have a damaging effect on water quality monitoring programs throughout the nation.
In its most recent budget, the USEPA completely gutted its Beaches Grant Program, a key initiative for protecting public health at our nation’s beaches. The agency proposes to eliminate nearly $10 million in funding used to help states conduct regular beach water quality monitoring and notifications.
“Americans rely on water quality monitoring and reporting to ensure that the water we swim, surf and play in is safe,” said Amanda Griesbach, a Heal the Bay water quality scientist who authored this year’s report. “The public deserves to know that the water is safe when they go to the beach. “
Heal the Bay is encouraged by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recent drafting of a bill that restores federal Beach Program funds. Heal the Bay, along with our environmental partners, will continue to advocate on behalf of this vital public health program.
About the Beach Report Card
The report is based on the routine monitoring data provided by Oregon Health Authority and Washington’s Department of Ecology, and would not be possible without their cooperation. These agencies collect and analyze marine water samples for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources, including fecal waste. Data is analyzed when it is made available by these entities and ranked on an A through F grading scale.
Heal the Bay’s interactive microsite www.beachreportcard.org contains an FAQ section, methodology, weekly grade updates as well as seasonal and historical grades. The Report Card is made possible through the generous support of simplehuman, LAcarGUY, Surf Industry Manufacturing Assn., and the Grousbeck Family Foundation.
About Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay is a Santa Monica-based nonprofit environmental organization making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy and clean. We use science, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.