Mukilteo beach gets F gradeHigh levels of bacteria found in water this summer
The beach at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park has earned an F grade after unsafe levels of fecal bacteria were found in the water this summer, according to a recent report.
The beach was issued a failing grade on Heal the Bay’s End-of-Summer Beach Report Card, due to high levels of bacterial pollution in the water. Levels are now back at a safe level.
“We take complicated microbiological data that we receive from public health departments… and we put it into a format that the public can understand,” said Heal the Bay beach water quality scientist Amanda Griesbach. “We put it in a grading system just like in school.”
The lower the grade, the greater the risk of a swimmer contracting an illness from the water.
Testers from Washington’s BEACH program have identified problems at Mukilteo’s beach with thick beach wrack, animal waste and polluted stormwater discharge, according to the report.
As a result, the state Department of Ecology & Health issued swimming advisories or cautions at the beach twice this summer, once in June and again in July. Bacteria counts have gone down since then. The beach is open and safe for swimming.
Poor water quality at Lighthouse Park may be caused by polluted stormwater draining from a pipe near the boat launch, according to the report.
“We have had water quality issues at that beach, but we don’t right now,” BEACH Program Manager Julie Lowe said. “Bacteria numbers have dropped down a lot, but that may be because there hasn’t been a lot of rain to go down the storm drain.”
The city’s Public Works is working with the Department of Ecology & Health to identify potential sources of the bacteria and to determine if the stormwater pipe itself may be leaking.
The city’s Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Program is heading the investigation, which is ongoing.
“We are continuing the work to figure out where the contamination is coming from,” Public Works Director Larry Waters said.
“Our high counts (of bacteria) only occurred during high flows (of stormwater), so we are waiting for more high flows before we sample again.”
BEACH testers collected and analyzed marine water samples for bacteria that indicate pollution. They test three sampling stations on the beach weekly.
The program’s beach advisories and closures are based on Environmental Protection Act standards.
The water becomes polluted when feces – which can carry harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses – get into the water.
Swimming in polluted water can cause upper respiratory infections, stomach flus, skin rashes and ear infections. There is no record of swimmers getting sick from swimming at Mukilteo’s beach.
An annual Report Card is released by Heal the Bay, a non-profit that monitors beach water quality along the West Coast.
The report analyzed marine water quality data collected this summer by state agencies at 59 Washington beaches, issuing an A-to-F grade to each beach based on levels of bacterial pollution.
“An F means we wouldn’t advise people to swim in it because the likelihood of them becoming sick is a lot higher than if the beach had a higher grade,” Griesbach said. “It is a public health risk.”
Most of the state’s monitored beaches – 96 percent – had a grade of A or B. Three of Washington’s beaches received a failing grade.
The other F marks in Washington state were found at Holmes Harbor (Freeland County Park in Island County) and Wildcat Cove (Larrabee State Park) in Whatcom County.
Stay healthy at the beach
Quick tip: Most beaches have the highest bacteria levels after a heavy rainfall. To reduce the risk of getting sick, avoid swimming and wading for 48 hours after rain.
Here are some more tips to help you stay healthy at the beach:
• Check www.beachreportcard.org or www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/ before you go to the beach to make sure your destination beach hasn’t been closed due to pollution.
• Practice good hygiene and help children to do the same.
• Clean up after your pet.
• Carry out all trash. Avoid getting beach water in your mouth.
• Do your part to limit the water runoff from your yard or street.
• Don’t feed the seagulls.