Pillar Point County Park & Water Quality
Pillar Point County Park on the Strait of Juan de Fuca offers recreation such as shellfish harvest, picnicking, fishing, and beach combing.
In 2012 poor water quality stemming from bacterial pollution prompted the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to "downgrade" the classification of shellfish beds from "approved" to "conditionally approved" meaning beaches were closed to shellfish harvest during high-risk parts of the year as bacterial pollution can cause illness from contact with the water or from eating shellfish.
Clallam County partnered with DOH, the Washington Department of Ecology (ECY), and others to seek out and correct sources of water pollution.
Tools developed to help clean up Pillar Point were expanded to other parts of Clallam County threatened by bacterial pollution, such as Dungeness Bay.
- Water quality data collected for two years
- Conducted survey of Pillar Point uses and conditions
- Supplied "Sani-can" during high-use season
- Installed fencing to deter abuse of sensitive areas
- Developed interpretive signage to encourage park care
- Distributed Pet Waste Information Cards (PDF) and baggies
- Screened pet waste management videos at cinema
- Created RV Dump Station Brochure (PDF)
- Education / outreach Countywide
Water Quality Improvements
During the course of this project water quality improved markedly. Though observations of park uses coupled with water quality data failed to point out any single primary source of pollution, continued DOH water quality sampling of marine stations indicates a decrease in bacterial pollution. Currently, those marine stations nearest Pillar Point County Park meet or exceed water quality standards.
Given the trend of improving water quality, coupled with improvements to the park and a presence of staff and volunteers keeping tabs on activities in the area, DOH has "upgraded" the water quality classification surrounding Pillar Point County Park from "conditionally approved" to "approved" in their December 2017 Addendum to the 2009 East Straits Sanitary Survey Report (PDF).
Through surveys of park uses, observations of sanitary conditions, and water quality monitoring a single "smoking gun" causing polluted water was never discovered. This speaks to the difficulties in dealing with nonpoint sources of pollution. Still, water quality improved during this project and a link may exist between increased attention and the behavior of park users.
Next Steps for Continued Success
Now that water quality measured at marine stations around Pillar Point County Park meets established standards, it is hoped that the continued presence of staff and volunteers in the area will deter abuse of the park and a return to degraded waters. Clallam County Environmental Health (CCEH) staff plans to visit the park periodically through the low-use winter months to document and report on sanitary conditions around facilities and on the beach. DOH will likely continue standard water quality monitoring of marine stations through the commercial shellfish program. Should Clallam Marine Resources Committee volunteers continue a biotoxin monitoring effort at the park in 2018, CCEH will request additional support to keep an eye on sanitary conditions on and around the beach.
Everybody can help make sure Pillar Point County Park stays open for all of its many uses by bagging and packing out pet waste, using only the pit toilets near the upper parking lot (no garbage in the toilets), discharging RV wastewater tanks at approved dump stations only, and generally treating the park with care and respect.
This project was made possible by a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology's Centennial Clean Water Program.