OLYMPIA – The state’s BEACH Program will soon begin testing the state’s most popular saltwater beaches for bacteria to prevent people from getting sick from playing in the water.
The federally funded, state-run BEACH (Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health) Program notifies the public when beaches are a health risk, and educates people about ways to avoid getting sick from playing in saltwater.
Contact with fecal-contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.
Sources of bacteria on beaches include sewer overflows, discharges from unmaintained septic systems, wastewater treatment plants, sewage spills, and feces from dogs, wildlife, and birds.
“The BEACH program is the best source of information for saltwater beach health in the state of Washington,” said Christopher Clinton, acting coordinator of the BEACH Program.
Clinton added: “Our partnerships with local health departments, universities, local volunteers and tribes are the strength of the BEACH Program.”
The local partners collect weekly samples to look for fecal pollution and the BEACH Program notifies the public when there are problems.
The program is jointly coordinated by the state departments of Ecology and Health. The annual May – September project is implemented by local health agencies, tribal nations, university coordinators, non-profits, and volunteers.