On July 16 SAWC began sampling the waters at City Park and Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell
These beaches were identified by DEC as a high priority because of their frequent use for swimming, wading, and recreation activities. Through this project, SAWC will increase public awareness of potential sources and the health risks associated with bacterial contamination and will work with the City and Borough of Wrangell to limit beach access in the event of bacterial exceedances. SAWC staff collects weekly marine water samples from each beach that are sent to and tested in a Juneau lab for fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria.
Sampling will continue for 20 weeks during the high-use spring and summer recreational seasons, following a DEC approved sampling plan and Beach Monitoring Handbook. In the event that sampled waters exceed safe bacterial levels, SAWC will work with DEC and the City and Borough of Wrangell to notify the public of any health risks or concerns.
The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition was awarded funding for this monitoring program through the State’s Alaska Clean Water Actions (ACWA) BEACH grant. A partnership between the State of Alaska’s Departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish & Game, and Natural Resources, ACWA was created to characterize Alaska’s waters in a holistic manner, and facilitate the sharing of data, resources, and information among state agencies. The ACWA grant program awards funds for projects to restore, protect, or conserve water quality, quantity, and aquatic habitat on identified waters.
The Alaska DEC established the BEACH Program to provide support for communities to begin monitoring marine water quality at high-priority beaches for organisms that indicate fecal contamination.
Bacterial contamination in Alaska’s coastal recreational waters can originate from sources such as shoreline development, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, septic tanks, urban runoff, disposal of human waste from boats, commercial and domestic animals and natural animal sources such as wildlife. People who swim and recreate in waters contaminated with such bacterial pollution are at an increased risk of becoming ill. By monitoring these beaches for bacteria, SAWC will keep local managers informed, thereby reducing the risk of infection to people using these recreational waters. Many year-round residents and seasonal visitors have come to expect Alaska’s marine waters to be in pristine condition. Monitoring City Park and Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell will provide valuable data for beach managers and users to critically evaluate this assumption.
For more information about the BEACH program in Wrangell contact:
Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition