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. Sampling takes place from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During this time, you can check out current water quality conditions on the swimming map.
Four beaches in Whatcom County were monitored during the swim season in 2022. Birch Bay County Park and Port of Bellingham Marine Park were sampled every other week by the Whatcom County Health Department. Larrabee State Park and Little Squalicum Park were sampled weekly by Surfrider volunteers.
See details on each beach below.
During the 2022 swim season, Birch Bay County Park beach was sampled eight times. Water quality at this beach was excellent, with bacteria levels meeting swimming standard during all periods sampled.
During the 2022 monitoring season, Larrabee State Park beach was sampled 14 times. Two sampling events exceeded the safe swimming standard. On July 18, results were in the advisory range, but subsequent sampling showed results that were lower. On Aug. 1, results were in the advisory range and resample results were still high. This resulted in an advisory. This beach met the swimming standard for all other periods sampled.
Little Squalicum beach has consistent low to moderate bacteria levels, with occasional high bacteria spikes. A permanent swimming advisory is in place for this beach. Little Squalicum Park beach was sampled nine times during the monitoring season.
During the 2022 sampling season, Little Squalicum Park beach had three sampling events that exceeded the safe swimming standard. The exceedances occurred on June 6, June 14, and June 27. This beach exceeded EPA’s water quality criteria for both the geometric mean and the statistical threshold value. This beach met the swimming standard for all other periods sampled.
Port of Bellingham Marine Park beach was sampled eight times during the 2022 sampling season. This beach had very good water quality and met the swimming standard for all sampling events.
Data summary: Bacteria results compared to standards
The chart below summarizes the bacteria levels at Whatcom 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 30 and the statistical threshold value of enterococcus/100 mL is greater than or equal to 110. We issue a public swimming advisory when enterococcus levels exceed 104 per 100 mL of water.
Table: Calculated geometric mean and statistical threshold value at Whatcom County beaches (in enterococcus per 100 mL) for 2022.
|Birch Bay County Park Beach
|Larrabee State Park Beach
|Little Squalicum Park Beach
|Port of Bellingham Marine Park Beach