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As King County beaches get busy, scientists monitoring water quality

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks says wildlife, people and pets all contribute to bacteria. There are some ways to help keep levels down.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — As temperatures heat up and more people look to cool off at area beaches, the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks is regularly monitoring bacteria levels to ensure it's safe to swim.

The department said wildlife, people and pets all contribute to bacteria. At some levels, bacteria can make the water unsafe to swim in.

To monitor water quality, scientists with King County examine area beaches, taking records of any notable factors such as a large congregation of animals on the beach, as well as looking for algae blooms and taking multiple samples of water, which are brought back to labs for testing. 

"The main thing we're looking for is poop in the water, the bacteria that lives in our guts, it's in people, pets, and wildlife," said Ecologist Daniel Nidzgorski with the King County Department of Natural Resources.

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

There are several things beach visitors can do to prevent contributing to bacteria problems. The county suggests:

• Only take dogs to a designated dog beach. If you do take your dog to the beach, clean up after it.
• Don’t feed geese and other birds at the beach. The more they hang out at the beach or on a dock, the more poop gets washed into the water, and the more they eat, the more output they produce.
• Use well-fitting swim diapers for babies and toddlers.
• Wash off before entering the water.

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

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