Where are the cleanest swimming areas in King County?on June 26, 2012 @ 11:05 am (Updated: 1:44 pm - 6/26/12 )
King County monitors area swimming beaches weekly, May through September, and the results of those weekly tests are updated and available online.
The test samples come from popular lakes and swimming beaches and are color-coded indicating "low concern" to "high concern" based on the amount of fecal coliform and algal toxins in the water.
Fecal coliform counts involve exactly what you think; they're intestinal bacteria from humans and other mammals that can be found in water.
High levels of fecal coliform can indicate a sewage leak or condition that heightens the health risk for people swimming in the water. Small amounts of the bacteria are routinely found in safe water, but high counts can lead to warnings and beach closures.
There are currently no lake closures in King County, but there are several creeks including John's Creek, Juanita Creek, Ravenna Creek, Idylwood Creek, and Thornton Creek, that the county recommends avoiding at this time.
Closures of lakes and creeks can also result from the presence of algal toxins. Toxic algae blooms have been responsible for closures on Lake Sammamish and at Green Lake in years past.
A particularly nasty type of bloom called cynobacteria, that has been present in area lakes before, can sometimes produce toxins that can be lethal to people and animals. Poisoning from toxins can happen in 15 to 20 minutes and may appear as numbness in the lips, fingers and toes, and dizziness.
After a couple lake closures due to the blooms in the late 90s, cyanotoxin monitoring became a regular part of county water safety checks.
Check the full list of King County lakes and beaches for information on the cleanliness and safety of water at swimming areas near you.
By JAMIE GRISWOLD, MyNorthwest.com Editor
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