First of all, did you know the Washington State Department of Ecology maintains a blog called "Fecal Matters"? It's true. And it's via the Fecal Matters blog that news of a sewage spill in Tacoma's Commencement Bay trickles out this morning.
According to the Department of Ecology, today the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department closed beaches at Jack Hyde Park and Dickman Mill Park on Ruston Way in Tacoma due to the raw sewage spill.
Julie Lowe, the the BEACH Program Manager for the Department of Ecology, tells Seattle Weekly that the raw sewage discharged into Commencement Bay came from a City of Tacoma wastewater outfall facility. While no exact volume has been determined yet, Lowe says the sewage flowed for about 10 minutes, which in a city the size of Tacoma could have theoretically resulted in a "large amount" of sewage finding its way into the water.
However, Ray Hanowell with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, while confirming that sewage flowed from one of the City of Tacoma's sewer lines between Jack Hyde and Dickman Mill park for about 10 minutes, says that most likely the spill was small, and "wasn't a major spill at all." The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is the agency that made the decision to close the beaches at Jack Hyde and Dickman Mill parks, and Hanowell says the agency will be sampling water again next week to determine if they're safe to reopen.
On November 19, 2012, a City of Everett wastewater treatment outfall released an unknown volume of raw sewage near Forest Park due to heavy rainfall. The city is collecting water quality samples in the area and posting emergency signage to warn the public about this incident.
Today, the City of Everett experienced several combined sewer overflows (CSOs), notably a few near Jetty Island due to higher than normal rainfall amount.
For anyone who might consider disobeying the beach closures, a note about safety from the Fecal Matters blog:
Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.