Friday, July 22, 2016

Pollution solution: Keep a clean beach, help keep shellfish harvests open

There’s poop on Washington beaches. Bird poop. Fish poop. Insect poop. Dog poop. Cat poop. And yes, there is people poop, too.

North Beach has suffered several shellfish harvest closures due to dangerously-high levels of fecal bacteria.

Beach poop comes in all shapes and sizes, but the vast majority is invisible. Beach poop can originate from many different sources, both human and animal. But whether it comes from humans, our pets and horses, or wildlife it adds fecal coliform bacteria to our beaches and shellfish beds. This directly affects our ability to harvest and enjoy razor clams.

Beach poop is everyone’s business. 

New beach study pinpoints sources

A new study released by our Environmental Assessment Program identifies levels of contamination and main sources of fecal coliform bacteria pollution along the Pacific coast--from Ocean Shores to the Moclips River--and offers solutions that residents and visitors can use to keep beaches safe from this problem. High levels of fecal coliform bacteria not only impact shellfish beds, but can make people and pets sick from exposure to contaminated water.

The North Beach Bacteria Study is a collaboration between Ecology, Washington Department of Health, the Quinault Indian Nation and local governments. Its aim is to improve downgraded shellfish areas and protect those that currently meet water quality standards.

“Maintaining healthy beaches and shellfish beds is everyone’s business,” says Lydia Wagner, our project coordinator on the study. “Beachgoers must be responsible for their own activities that contribute to bacteria pollution.”

The North Beach area receives tens of thousands of visitors during the summer months and clam digs, which creates an intermittent, heavy-use impact on beaches.

Do your part to keep the beach clean

For beach tourists, the study offers three easy tips they can use to keep Washington beaches clean and limit bacteria problems in shellfish areas:
  1. Bag your pet waste and properly dispose of it
  2. Pack out your picnic trash
  3. Don’t feed wildlife
Learn more tips to be a good beach steward on our website

Local residents are also encouraged to maintain their home’s septic system. Regular maintenance supports clean beaches and helps avoid costly repairs later.

Dig deeper into the science

The study is the first step in creating a great resource for those interested in protecting Washington’s coastal beaches. Residents will understand how a damaged septic system can harm the beaches they love. Visitors will understand why packing out the beach poop, whether it’s actual poop or common litter, is important to maintaining the safe and healthy beaches they love to visit. 

There is a simple solution to the problem of common beach pollution: bag it up and pack it out.

By: Dave Bennett, communications manager

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