No single source found for Bay View pollution

Debby Sargeant (right) and Julianne Ruffer of the Washington State BEACH Program collect and record water samples Thursday at Bay View State Park's beach. Danny Miller / Skagit Valley Herald

BAY VIEW — A survey of the beach at Bay View State Park Thursday revealed no single, obvious source of fecal coliform contamination entering the water.

State BEACH Program staff say pinning down the cause of ongoing, intermittent pollution is a challenge.

Fecal coliform bacteria has hindered recreation at the beach for nearly 15 years. The bacteria is an indicator that human or animal sewage may be present, which can make people sick.

BEACH Program Manager Debby Sargeant and beach specialist Julianne Ruffner walked the beach Thursday, noting the presence of birds, watching for dog poop and taking rough measurements of the seaweed awash in beach wracks. They kept an eye out for swimmers, boaters and in-water wildlife, as well as taking stock of surrounding land use.

They also focused on two restroom facilities at the beach. Sargeant said it was unclear as to whether they were tied to the park’s on-site septic system, which is regulated by the state Department of Health because of its size and was installed in 2012.

Skagit County environmental health specialist Jeanne King joined them.

“We’re just as interested in what the source of the fecal coliform is,” she said.

Whether it’s primarily coming from the white splotches dropped by seagulls or nearby human sources is unclear.

“It’s really hard to tell. It definitely seems like a nonpoint pollution source,” Sargeant said.

So long as the federally funded BEACH program doesn’t lose support next year, volunteer sampling at the site will continue, and maybe even increase in an effort to find the source of fecal matter.

“I think our next step will be to be a little more rigorous with our marine samples,” Sargeant said.

The state departments of Ecology and Health coordinate the BEACH program, which stands for Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health. WSU-Skagit County Beach Watchers sample Bay View at least once a week during the summer months and report contamination to the county health department, which then issues swimming closures.

The beach most recently closed for a period in June, and shortly after was pegged onto a top-five list for the state’s most polluted beaches.

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

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