Dept of Ecology to use new testing methods for lakes

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Neighborhood Association volunteers collecting samples from
Echo Lake. The City now collects the samples.
The Washington Department of Ecology is using new methods to more accurately test for waterborne disease in state waters. 

The methods will better protect people while they are swimming, boating, or enjoying other recreational activities.

By testing for E. coli in freshwater and enterococci bacteria in saltwater, Ecology is transitioning away from using fecal coliform testing for recreational uses. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many other states have already made this transition, which current science shows is now a more accurate way to protect against waterborne disease.

“This change is the right move for Washington,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality program. “We take our role in protecting public health very seriously and this action will help protect anyone who enjoys our waters.”

A technical advisory group with representation from regulated industries, tribes, and environmental groups provided input on the rule change. Ecology sought public comment in July 2018.

Water quality standards, and the related testing, are used to determine compliance with the state’s wastewater discharge rules, permitting, monitoring, and prioritizing cleanup plans for waterbodies.

The new bacteria testing methods are not related to beach closures, which are managed by local health departments.

Additional information is available on Ecology’s Recreational Use Criteria rulemaking webpage.

Visit the water quality website for more on water quality standards.


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