Beach poop is everyone's business

Toddler with sagging diaper is trailed by spotted dog on sandy beach

When the long-awaited warm weather finally makes its way to Western Washington, people head to the beach…in droves. You pack the car with towels, chairs, a picnic, and the kids. The last thing you want to see when you get there is a “closed to swimming” sign.

Beaches close because of high levels of enterococci in the water. Enterococci are indicators of fecal bacteria and as you might have guessed, swimming in fecal bacteria is not only gross but can make you sick.

These bacteria are found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Fecal bacteria can make you sick when you ingest them or get them on your skin. If we find high levels of enterococci in the water that are above the safe swimming standard, we issue beach closures. We also inform the public that there is an increased risk of illness if they make contact with the contaminated water.

Know before you go!

We monitor select saltwater beaches weekly during the summer to help ensure that beachgoers stay healthy and are able to enjoy the water while at the beach. This summer, we’ve already had some beaches close due to elevated levels of fecal bacteria in the water. Before you head out to your favorite beach, go to our beach closure map to make sure that the water is safe for swimming!

State of Washington map with green dots and yellow triangles along marine water

Ecology's beach closure map.

Help keep poop off the beach

Fecal bacteria in the water can rise to unhealthy levels for many reasons. Here are some things you can do to help keep your beach clean:

Scoop the poop

If you bring your dog to the beach, pick up its poop, bag it, and throw it in the trash.

Bathroom breaks and swim diapers

Give children frequent bathroom breaks and put young children in swim diapers.

Don’t feed the birds

Pick up your trash and don’t feed the wildlife! While feeding the birds may be fun, it encourages birds to congregate in large numbers. This increases bird poop at the beach, which can effect water quality.

If you’re sick, stay out of the water

Swim only when well! Swimming while ill, especially with diarrhea, can transmit illness-causing bacteria to other