Apr 15, 2020

Washington County Suspends Sampling Programs Due to COVID-19

Skagit County, Washington is suspending its water quality sampling programs because of COVID-19 (coronavirus) restrictions

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Skagit County Natural Resources Division is suspending its water quality sampling programs.

Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), bi-weekly monitoring for an indefinite period of time this spring will cause a gap in data.

“We are doing that in order to follow the state’s stay-at-home order,” said Natural Resources Division Manager Michael See. “The public health risk right now outweighs collecting the samples.”

Each week, teams of two visit about 20 sampling sites along local rivers, creeks and sloughs. Through ambient monitoring, approximately 40 sites total are checked every other week, reported the Valley Skagit Herald.

The work involves several points of contact with others.

“There are before and after the trip interactions, there’s using a shared vehicle, there’s going to the lab and interacting with people there,” See said.

Another program has groups venture into stormy weather to collect samples in areas of the Samish River watershed, according to the Valley Skagit Herald. These areas have shown bacterial pollution, which has often coincided with heavy rain, causing the river to rise.

Since storm sampling is required in order to determine whether shellfish can be harvested from those farms, this effort is being continued in the interim by Taylor Shellfish Farms, reported the Valley Skagit Herald.

“We’re just grateful that the state Department of Health was flexible enough to do that and give us that opportunity, and to not just mandatorily be closed every time we crossed the threshold,” said Taylor Shellfish spokesperson Bill Dewey.

According to Skagit County Pollution Identification and Correction Coordinator Karen DuBose, staff at Taylor Shellfish will use the same monitoring location and same lab used by the county. The county has compiled data from both water quality monitoring programs into annual reports, detailing the health of waterways through the Skagit and Samish watersheds.

An effort to collect this data will resume once it is declared safe.

“As soon as we feel the public health risk has reduced to an acceptable level we will be resuming the sampling,” See said. “We’re trying to do our part right now to flatten the curve.”

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