How King County makes sure beaches are safe to swim

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The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks says wildlife, humans and pets all contribute to bacteria. There are ways to help keep levels low.

KING COUNTY, Wash. – As temperatures warm and more people seek cooling off at area beaches, the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks regularly monitors bacteria levels to ensure it is safe to swim.

The department said wildlife, people and pets all contribute to bacteria. At certain levels, bacteria can make the water unsuitable for swimming.

To monitor water quality, King County scientists examine area beaches, record any noticeable factors such as a large gathering of animals on the beach, look for algal blooms, and take several samples of water, which are brought back to the laboratories. to test.

“The main thing we’re looking for is poo in the water, the bacteria that live in our guts, that’s in people, pets and wildlife,” said ecologist Daniel Nidzgorski of the department. King County Natural Resources.

Nidzgorski says if the levels are too high, the county notifies public health, which can announce the beach closure. Environmental Protection Agency studies have explored what levels can potentially cause nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, or even lung problems in some cases.

There are several things beach visitors can do to avoid contributing to bacteria problems. The department offers:

• Bring dogs only to a designated dog beach. If you take your dog to the beach, clean it up afterwards.
• Do not feed geese and other birds on the beach. The longer they hang out at the beach or on a dock, the more poo gets washed into the water, and the more they eat, the more they produce.
• Use properly fitted swim diapers for babies and toddlers.
• Wash before entering the water.

The King County Department of Natural Resources typically releases new water quality data on Wednesdays. To learn more, click here.

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