Water inspections impacting recreation and food supply



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Posted on May 28, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 28 at 11:28 AM

GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- Summer means more people getting out on the water and hitting the beach for shellfish harvesting. Behind-the-scene, state and local health inspectors are out testing water quality around the Puget Sound to make sure the waters are clean and safe.

During the summer, health inspectors concentrate on taking samples in areas people like to play, swim and fish.

“I think a lot of people don't know we're out monitoring the water. People look out and see the water is really pretty, but it takes work to maintain that." said Len Adams with the Tacoma Pierce-County Health Department.

Water inspectors test for bacteria which often come from wildlife and pets but, especially, faulty and leaking septic systems.

These water quality inspections also have a huge impact on the food supply.

“Two years ago when I bought Minterbrook Oyster Company, the whole Minter Bay in Gig Harbor was closed. That means we couldn’t harvest oysters because oysters feed off the water, absorb what’s in the water. You can’t go and sell the oysters if you’ve got too much pollution in the bay,” said Kent Kingman, Minterbrook Oyster Company owner.

Kingman has been working with health departments for the last two-and-a-half years to find and stop the source of the contamination upstream, so they can now starting harvest Washington oysters which are in high demand around the country and Asia.

Health officials say most beaches are looking good, but the Tacoma Pierce-County Health Department issued a toxic algae advisory last Friday for Bay Lake, a popular fishing spot. Until further notice, the lake is unsafe for people and pets.