Annual report highlights Bay View beach pollution

Jennifer Vandegrift tries to coax her dog, Hansel, into the water on Wednesday, June 25 at Bayview State Park, while she wades in the water with Violet Verrue, 8, and her daughter, Emma Vandegrift. The beach reopened for swimming and wading Monday after a closure of several days due to high levels of fecal coliform in the water.

Bay View State Park placed second on a top-five list for the state’s public beaches, and it’s not a good review.

The park’s beach, which was closed to swimming Friday until Monday afternoon due to high concentrations of bacteria associated with fecal matter, has had pollution issues since 2011, BEACH Program Manager Debby Sargeant said.

BEACH — Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health — is a federally funded program the state departments of Ecology and Health coordinate. Through the program, local volunteers collect water samples at public beaches from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Sixty of the state’s 1,534 beaches are monitored through the BEACH program. Bay View is the only Skagit beach included.

WSU-Skagit County Beach Watchers sample Bay View once week, and sometimes more if pollution is detected.

According to Ecology BEACH data, Bay View State Park had nearly 10 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit for fecal bacteria May 20. The next two weeks no pollution was detected.

High levels were found again last week, resulting in the latest closure. But samples Monday showed low levels.

“We do see fluctuating bacteria levels at that beach, so we’re going to take a closer look at it with the Skagit County Health Department,” Sargeant said.

In the next few weeks, volunteers will survey the shoreline looking for possible sources of the pollution, which could help the county correct the problem, she said.

The recurring pollution at Bay View was highlighted in an annual report the Natural Resources Defense Council compiles using BEACH program data.

The national nonprofit environmental action group released the 2013 report Wednesday.

According to the report, Washington ranked 19th out of 30 states for water quality at public beaches with 12 percent of water samples exceeding the EPA’s recommended fecal bacteria threshold for beach closures.

The five worst beaches in the state include Bay View, Larrabee State Park’s Wildcat Cove, Little Squalicum Park in Whatcom County, Allyn Waterfront Park in Mason County and Waterfront Dock/Ruston Way in Pierce County.

Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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