A large number of beaches in the Puget Sound region have high levels of fecal bacteria causing the water to be unsafe for swimming and water contact.
Local health departments have issued no-contact advisories for 10 beaches in four counties. The high levels of bacteria were discovered during routine sampling conducted throughout the summer.
The public is advised to avoid contact with the water at the following beaches until further notice:
- Irondale Beach Park
- Point Whitney Tidelands
- Saltwater State Park
- Redondo County Park
- Des Moines Beach Park
- Carkeek Park
- Potlatch State Park
- Twanoh State Park
- Belfair State Park
Ecology noted that there was a recent closure at Des Moines Beach Park, originally caused by a sewage spill. That closure was changed to an advisory because bacteria levels remain high at this beach for unknown reasons which was found during investigative sampling.
Heat wave may have caused bacteria spikes
According to Laura Hermanson, Ecology’s BEACH program manager, the recent extreme heat throughout the Pacific Northwest was a likely a contributor to the rapid growth of bacteria scientists are seeing in Washington.
Water temperatures in shallow areas of Puget Sound were recorded as high as 70° which is well above the cool 57° seen in most summer months. Another contributing factor could be the larger number of people who sought relief from the stifling heat and brought pets to the beach. Ecology regularly encourages beachgoers to clean up pet poop which is known to contribute to fecal bacterial growth. Putting swim diapers on small children also helps keep beaches stay healthier.
High bacteria levels can make people sick
Contact with fecal-contaminated waters can cause a number of health issues. Children and those who are immuno-compromised can be especially vulnerable. Some of the health risks can result in gastroenteritis which can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. People who swim in water with high fecal bacterial levels can develop skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses.
“We’re seeing very high levels of bacteria at multiple beaches and we want people to check our water quality beach map before heading out this holiday weekend,” said Hermanson.
Stay safe if you go in the water at beaches under advisory
If people do choose to swim in water with high levels of fecal bacteria, Ecology staff recommend at minimum washing your hands before eating or drinking. Ideally swimmers should shower off immediately after getting out of the water or when they arrive home.
Stay updated on water quality at local beaches by checking the BEACH Program swimming map, following our Fecal Matters blog posts, connecting on Facebook, or joining our listserv.
For more information
Laura Hermanson, our BEACH program manager, is available at 360-480-4868 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For media inquiries contact Jimmy Norris at 360-480-5722.