Heal the Bay report scores Washington high in ocean water quality

Heal the Bay WA 2014

Seeking to keep Pacific Northwest ocean users healthy as they head to the shore this summer, environmental group Heal the Bay will be issuing water quality grades for over 200 beach monitoring locations in Oregon and Washington throughout the beachgoing season.

Ocean users in the Northwest generally enjoy very good water quality, according to Heal the Bay’s online Beach Report Card, which grades shorelines along the entire western coast of the United States each week based on levels of bacterial pollution. However, troubling pockets of pollution still dot the coastline throughout the year.

Beachgoers can check updated weekly grades each Friday at beachreportcard.org. Heal the Bay provides this searchable online database as a free public service. Ocean-going families can find out which beaches are safe and unsafe, check recent water quality history and look up details on beach closures.

In the latest weekly report, all Washington monitoring locations are earning A grades during dry weather. However, there are 10 monitoring locations at three beaches in the state closed due to pollution-related issues: a sewage spill, dairy waste discharge to a creek, and one unknown cause of elevated bacteria in marine waters.

In Oregon, 22 monitoring locations are earning A grades during dry weather sampling in the latest weekly report. Heal the Bay will provide up-to-date information about beach closure and water quality for every monitoring location in the Oregon and Washington throughout the summer monitoring season.

In a related move to protect public health, Heal the Bay has just released its annual beach water quality report, which analyzed all the data gathered from monitoring locations throughout the Pacific Northwest in 2013.

The annual report analyzed weekly water quality data collected at 183 beach monitoring locations in Washington and Oregon last summer, issuing an A-to-F grade to each location based on levels of bacterial pollution. The lower the grade, the greater the risk of contracting an illness from water contact.

The report found that Washington exhibited good water during dry weather last summer, with 89% of monitored locations earning A or B grades (a 6% dip from the three-year average). However, a handful of beaches in the state received failing grades: Freeland County Park (D and F grades), Manchester Beach at Pomeroy Park (D and F grades), Allyn Waterfront Park (F grades), and Little Squalicum Park (F grades).

Meanwhile in Oregon, all 11 beach monitoring sites (those monitored frequently enough to earn annual grades in the summary report) received either A or B grades during summer dry weather, indicating that water quality was excellent during the reporting period.

Water quality dips dramatically in wet weather, as demonstrated in Oregon last summer when only 73% monitoring locations scored A or B grades during wet weather. Washington notched 78% A or B grades in wet weather.  Both states exhibited poorer water quality last summer during wet weather than their 3-year averages.

The full annual report on Oregon and Washington beach water quality can be found at: http://www.healthebay.org/sites/default/files/pdf/BRC_2014_WEB_.pdf

High bacteria counts can be due to a number of sources, but frequently are connected to runoff.  Heal the Bay recommends staying out of the water for 72 hours following any significant rainstorm, and staying at least 100 yards from any outfall pipe, stream or creek entering marine recreational waters. Contact with polluted water can cause upper respiratory infections, stomach flus, skin rashes and ear infections.

Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay has graded more than 500 California beaches annually over the past two decades, helping protect the health of millions of ocean goers each year.  Building on that success, program managers expanded reporting to Washington and Oregon beaches.  The grades would not be possible without data being provided to Heal the Bay by Oregon’s Public Health Beach Water Quality Program and Washington State’s Department of Ecology & Health BEACH Program

“It’s great to see nearly all monitored beaches in Oregon and Washington getting excellent water quality grades,” said Kirsten James, Heal the Bay’s director of science and policy for water quality. “But there are problem spots, so it’s critical to check out the Beach Report Card before you and your family visit the shore because a day at the beach should never make you sick.”

About the Beach Report Card

The Beach Report Card is based on the routine monitoring of beaches by local health agencies and dischargers. Heal the Bay compiles the data, analyzes it and assigns easy-to-understand letter grades. Its methodology is endorsed by California’s State Water Resources Control Board.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is made possible through the generous support of SIMA and the Swain Barber Foundation. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is in its 24th year. An FAQ about the Beach Report Card is available at beachreportcard.org

About Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use research, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.

Heal the Bay WA 2014

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