Keeping beaches safe
The Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication & Health (BEACH) Program ensures that marine water is safe to swim and play in and informs the public if water doesn't meet swimming standards.
During the 2017 beach season, 62 public beaches on coastlines were sampled from Memorial Day through Labor Day. High-use beaches were sampled weekly or biweekly for enterococcus, a type of fecal bacteria. High enterococcus levels are linked to swimmer illness.
Island County saltwater swimming beaches
We monitored Windjammer Park beach biweekly from May 22 through Sept. 1, 2017. Windjammer Lagoon and Freeland County Park in Holmes Harbor were sampled weekly during the same time period.
Freeland County Park, Holmes Harbor
Freeland County Park beach has a permanent swimming advisory from May 16 through Nov. 30, due to sporadic high bacteria levels during the summer months. Out of 15 sample events in 2017, six had very high bacteria levels, initiating a swimming closure. This beach does not meet the swimming standards for both the geometric mean and the statistical threshold value, exceeding safe swimming and wading levels.
During summer, north winds cause decaying marine vegetation to accumulate along the southern Holmes Harbor shoreline, which may be a source of summer bacteria increases. The vegetation, called beach wrack, can be up to two feet thick in areas.
A study of beach wrack conducted in 2012-2013, showed lower levels of bacteria during the winter and spring seasons when beach wrack was not present in such great amounts. High bacteria levels during summer months may be part of a natural condition at this beach.
During the monitoring period, Windjammer Lagoon had excellent water quality with low bacteria levels. This beach met the swimming standards for all periods sampled.
Windjammer Park beach
Windjammer Park beach has a permanent swim advisory due to moderately high bacteria levels. During 2017, out of seven sample events, this beach had one sampling event where bacteria levels were in the swim advisory range.
Data summary: Bacteria results compared to standards
The chart below summarizes the bacteria levels at Island County beaches in relation to the EPA swimming standard or saltwater swimming criteria. Beaches are considered unsafe for swimming when the geometric mean of enterococcus/100 mL of water is greater than or equal to 35 and the statistical threshold value of enterococcus/100 mL is greater than or equal to 276. We issue a public swimming advisory when enterococcus levels reach 104 per 100 mL of water.
Table: Calculated geometric mean and statistical threshold value at Island County beaches
(in enterococcus per 100 mL) for 2017
||Statistical Threshold Value
|Freeland County Park, Holmes Harbor
|Windjammer Park Beach