A combination of federal funding, county staff and volunteer efforts will put together a regular water-quality monitoring program for Maple Beach this summer.
“Is Maple Beach looking pretty good or is it something we should be looking at?” said Tom Kunesh, environmental health supervisor for Whatcom County. Kunesh said through the Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health (BEACH) program they would begin monthly testing at three sites in Maple Beach from May through August.
Samples will be tested for indicator species of fecal contamination by warm-blooded animals. “We want to begin to establish a baseline,” Kunesh said.
Debbie Sargeant with the Washington State Department of Ecology, which administers the BEACH program with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said they have been monitoring approximately 60 beaches in the state since 2004.
“The main criteria is heavy use by the public or a beach where there might be health risks,” she said. “We thought this year it would be good to use some of the BEACH funds to do some sampling up there to kind of test the waters.”
More frequent testing will provide better data, and Kunesh said they were working with the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force to establish alternate-week sampling. Volunteer samplers will be needed as well as someone to transport the samples to the laboratory within six hours. The first training was held April 21 and additional trainings will be scheduled as needed.