Four beaches in Island County were sampled during 2016. They were:
- Dave Mackie Memorial County Park beach
- Freeland County Park, Holmes Harbor
- Windjammer Lagoon
- Windjammer Park beach
Dave Mackie Memorial County Park, except for the saltwater lagoon behind the marine shoreline, and Windjammer Lagoon both met swimming criteria. Freeland County Park in Holmes Harbor and Windjammer Park Beach have permanent swim advisories due to bacteria levels.
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 2016 beach season, 61 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 Dave Mackie Memorial County Park and Windjammer Park beaches biweekly from May 24 through Aug. 29. Windjammer Lagoon and Freeland County Park in Holmes Harbor were sampled weekly during the same time period.
Dave Mackie Memorial County Park
The marine beach at Dave Mackie Memorial County Park had low levels of bacteria indicating excellent water quality. The beach met swimming criteria during all periods sampled. However, the saltwater lagoon behind the marine shoreline has a permanent swim advisory due to high bacteria levels found during sampling in 2014.
Freeland County Park, Holmes Harbor
Freeland County Park beach has a permanent swimming advisory from May 15 through Sept. 1, due to sporadic high bacteria levels during the summer months. Out of 15 sample events in 2016, five had very high bacteria levels, initiating a swimming closure. In addition, bacteria levels were in the swim advisory range three times. This beach does not meet the swimming standards with both the geometric mean and the 90th percentile levels 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 very good water quality with low bacteria levels. This beach met swimming standards for all periods sampled.
Windjammer Park beach
Windjammer Park beach has a permanent swim advisory due to moderately high bacteria levels. During 2016, out of eight 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 in these four beaches in relation to the EPA swimming standard:
|EPA Swimming Standard
|Dave Mackie Memorial County Park
|Freeland County Park, Holmes Harbor
|Windjammer Park Beach