Concerned about beach bacteria? State wants to know

Concerned about the water quality at a local beach? Want to know which beaches state and local health agencies are looking after? Think some of those beaches ought to be ignored?

Organizers of the Washington Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health (BEACH) program are looking for comments on the beaches they’ve decided to monitor during the summer of 2008 — nine of which are right here in Kitsap County.

The program is a joint venture between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ecology and the Washington State Department of Health. The program’s goal is to check for potentially harmful waterborne bacteria at state beaches.

Funding for the program is derived from the EPA and funneled through the two state agencies, who in turn rely on local health organizations to conduct the hands-on work for monitoring the sites.

One of the caveats for receiving EPA money is that state agencies have to compile public feedback on the BEACH program, said Sandy Howard, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

She also assured, however, that public comments are taken seriously in terms of which beaches get monitored.

“If somebody has information that we don’t know about, we’d love to know about it,” Howard said.

The BEACH program has a Web site where members of the public can view the beaches listed for each county and leave comments for those or any other beaches that may be of concern. The feedback portion of the site will remain up until June 2.

Beaches in Kitsap County that will be monitored under the BEACH program:

• Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park

• Pomeroy Park - Manchester Beach

• Indianola Dock

• Arness County Park

• Lions Park

• Fay Bainbridge State Park

• Silverdale County Park

• Evergreen Park

• Illahee State Park

That list represents one less monitoring site than in 2007.

Fort Ward State Park on Bainbridge Island was omitted because it “doesn’t exactly fit the criteria of the BEACH program,” said John Kiess, water protection program manager for the Kitsap County Health District. “It’s not really a water use-type park.”

The district is the local monitoring agency for Kitsap County.

Fort Ward represented one of 10 casualties statewide for the BEACH program, which suffered budgetary cuts this year.

The cuts have amounted to “not a lot, but enough that it makes a difference,” Howard said.

There were 63 monitoring sites in the state in 2007, compared to 53 this year.

“That’s significant,” Howard said.

Beach closures or restrictions can be checked via the county health district’s Web site; Howard urged that people just practice cleanliness to avoid bacterial pollution.

“They can do things as simple as picking up their dog poo,” Howard said. “Every little bit helps.”

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