Popular King County beaches closed due to high bacteria levels

KING COUNTY, Wash. — We’re still days away from the official start of summer and already many popular beaches in King County have been closed or have warnings issued because of high levels of bacteria in the water.

“At a marine beach we look for enterococci and at freshwater beaches we look for e coli,” Jun Naotsuka, the beach safety and sewage monitoring lead for King County Public Health, said. “They all come from intestines of warm-blooded animals and people so they basically come from poop of people or animals and they can make us sick if we ingest them.”

Madrona, Matthews and Madison beaches are all closed due to those high levels.

“At a marine beach we use the EPA and Dept. of Ecology standard and that’s 104 colony forming units and for freshwater beaches we use our own standard, and that’s complicated to explain but 320 is the general guideline,” he said.

A warning about the bacteria has been issued for Golden Gardens and that’s because of a policy with the state department of ecology but Naotsuka said people still shouldn’t get in the water there.

“The most likely symptoms people can get are gastrointestinal in nature so vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps that sort of digestive system illnesses,” he said. Many beach goers were surprised to learn of the closures and warnings.

“That sounds disgusting, largely,” Kyle Holohan said. “I feel like I’ve been tangibly aware of this the last couple of summers so I’ve mostly kind of stopped swimming in Lake Washington at this point.”

The health department said the next time it will test is Monday and based on those results it will update closures and warnings.

“It’s kind of unfortunate I hope it’s not due to pollution or human error or us not doing a very good job to be stewards of our environment, if it’s just natural like I wish I’d known before this,” Morgan Weaver said.

The health department said unfortunately this isn’t something that can be forecasted and there’s no way of knowing until it’s happened.

“Used to be just Green Lake and now it’s everyone, like no, are we losing all the water access,” Sylvie Liaw said. “Once it clears, I will trust the authorities and I will go in, people will go in.”

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