Additional Vashon beaches declared pollution free and safe for shellfish harvesting

The water along the Vashon-Maury Island shoreline is getting cleaner. State officials reopened last week 116 acres of shellfish beds to harvesting along the east shoreline of Vashon and Maury islands.

Tribal and non-tribal commercial harvesters can now collect shellfish from these areas and sell to restaurants, and the public can use these areas for swimming, boating, fishing and shellfishing and beachcombing with less concern for bacterial pollution. The four areas are Dolphin Point, Glen Acres, Klahanie, and Summerhurst.

Map of Vashon-Maury Island with Dolphin Point, Glen Acres, Klahanie, and Summerhurst circled.

These newly opened areas had been closed to shellfish harvesting by the State Department of Health since the late 1990s as a result of failing septic systems that created high bacteria levels in shoreline waters.  When septic systems are not functioning properly, untreated wastewater can flow into Puget Sound. Pet waste, livestock manure, and wildlife waste can also contribute to pollution. Vashon residents have stopped this pollution through their investments in septic repairs and replacements and their commitment to clean water.

“Preserving and protecting our natural environment was the driving force that got me into public service, and our sustained work to clean up Puget Sound is paying off with more beaches opening for shellfish harvest on Vashon-Maury Island,” said King County Executive Constantine. “These lands have provided for the first people of Puget Sound, and now it is up to all of us to ensure that they remain healthy and abundant for future generations.”

For the Puyallup Tribe, the East Passage Shellfish Growing Area has been a shellfish harvesting site for thousands of years. This upgrade restores access to treaty-reserved tribal harvest opportunities for commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence harvesting by tribal members.

Improvements to water quality and safe shellfish harvesting are critical for everyone, from those who love to play on Vashon beaches to shellfish lovers.  Keeping these beaches clean  means future generations will also be able to enjoy nature and learn values and practices to live within nature.

Improving shoreline water quality is a community effort

Thank you to the residents in the East Passage area for your investments in clean water. Partners to Public Health – Seattle & King County and the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks in this work included the Vashon-Maury Island Pollution Identification and Correction Advisory Committee (residents and agency representatives), the Washington State Department of Health, King Conservation District, and Vashon-Maury Island residents. King County provided information and rebates for septic system maintenance, tested water running onto the beach for bacteria, and tracked high bacteria levels to their sources. Ultimately, we all worked together with the community to improve on-site sewage operation and maintenance practices to solve the sewage pollution problem in East Passage Shellfish Growing Area.

Next steps to improve water quality around Vashon-Maury Island

East Vashon-Maury Island is not the only area where fecal pollution impacts water quality. King County is working with property owners on Northwest Vashon, where the beaches are still closed, and in the Poverty Bay Shellfish Protection District. There are also a few more areas on East Passage and in Quartermaster Harbor where septic and greywater discharges need to be fixed to stop fecal pollution.

By working together, we can find creative solutions to protect public health and keep the water clean, like the Spring Beach group septic system that contributed to improved water quality on a nearby beach.

The beauty of Puget Sound starts within ourselves. Thank you to all septic system owners for making a difference to the health of Puget Sound by recognizing the importance of septic system care and continuing to monitor these systems to prevent sewage from entering into Puget Sound.

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Originally published June 16, 2021.