Sewage monitor OKs Lake Washington beaches for swimming

Aug 29, 2022, 11:25 AM | Updated: 1:05 pm


The beaches of Lake Washington (Michael Seeley via Flickr)

(Michael Seeley via Flickr)

King County has reopened beaches between Madrona Beach and Howell Park along Lake Washington. Last week, a malfunctioning waste treatment pump spilled sewage, closing the beaches.

The East Pine Street Pump Station malfunctioned after a utility power outage, causing equipment shutdown and an overflow of sewage into Lake Washington, contaminating the water near the beaches and possibly making them unsafe for swimming. “Out of an abundance of caution,” King County Parks closed the beaches to swimmers.

Fewer Lake Washington beaches closed so far this year

Marie Fiore, with Wastewater Treatment Division, said that the malfunction was caused by a sensor that is being replaced, and the generator was only out of operation for 44 minutes before crews were able to fix it.

“King County has an emergency generator at the East Pine Pump Station that failed to start right away due to a faulty engine coolant level sensor,” Fiore said. “We are replacing the sensor, so the generator can now start and operate as designed.”

After staff monitored the water, it was determined Aug. 25 that the beaches were safe again to be reopened.

This is unrelated to closures at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, Matthews Beach, Meydenbauer Bay, and Newcastle Beach, which remain closed as the result of naturally occurring bacteria.

The City of Seattle had already closed Madrona Beach to swimming for the season because of a lifeguard shortage.

Daniel Nidzgorski, an ecologist with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, said that the likely culprit of the naturally occurring bacteria is water fowl that are spending time at the beaches.

“The bacteria we test for can come from any warm-blooded animal, from humans to dogs to birds,” Nidzgorski said. “It is by looking at the data from testers who visit the beach to check the water that we have a reason to believe that the most likely source of the e. Coli bacteria that is shutting down beaches is ducks and geese, as we have not detected high amounts of dog or human poop.”

Nidzgorski said that the best way to prevent closures is to stop feeding the ducks.

“More food means more ducks, which means more poop, which means more closures,” Nidzgorski said.

This summer, there have been 10 closures among seven beaches on Lake Washington. Last year, there were a total of 16 closures, and in 2019, there were 21 closures. Closures tend to last a couple of weeks, on average.

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Sewage monitor OKs Lake Washington beaches for swimming