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Our mission is to reduce the risk of illness for people who swim at marine or freshwater beaches.
Public Health staff sample waters and test for high levels of indicator bacteria. When these levels are too high for recreational use, the public is notified through press releases and posting signs on site. Indicator bacteria such as E. coli, enterococcus and fecal coliform, are found in the gut of warm blooded animals. High levels of indicator bacteria mean that feces and possible pathogens are present, which poses an increased risk of illness from swimming. When high bacteria levels are found, staff re-sample and test again. Warning signs are posted when repeat samples continue to show high levels of bacteria. Staff inspect and try to identify a pollution source. We also notify and work with the community to identify and fix a problem.
Causes of water contamination at swimming beaches can include:
High volume of swimmers
Children not clean after bathroom use
Improper disposal of diapers
Diarrhea incident in the water
Storm water runoff carrying human or animal waste
Malfunctioning sewage treatment plant or on-site sewage system
Department of Ecology - BEACH Program