Ketchikan is fortunate to have the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation continuing its beach marine water sampling program at 12 local recreation beaches this year.

The 2020 water sampling season is the fourth here in Ketchikan since DEC launched the program locally in 2017.

Water samples collected weekly by the Ketchikan Indian Community from May through mid-September are evaluated for levels of enterococci bacteria and fecal coliform. DEC then posts the results to notify the community as to which beaches meet or exceed state water quality standards for those bacteria.

Thus far this season, all 12 of the local program beaches were within water quality standards on six of the testing dates.

On three other testing dates — including the most recent testing day on Tuesday — only  one of 12 beaches exceeded the standard. Three other testing dates found two beaches above standard; two testing dates had three beaches above standard; and one testing date had four beaches exceeding the standard.

This is good information for local beachgoers, helping in making decisions about where to go and what precautions to take if going to a specific beach that might have had an elevated test result.

And now that the testing has been done over a period of years, the data could prove useful in identifying areas that might have a regular issue.

DEC updates the current test results on its website at https://dec.alaska.gov/water/water-quality/beach-program/ketchikan/, where data from earlier this year and previous years is available also.

The overall program is a component of the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, with funding through an Alaska Clean Water Actions grant managed by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition.

It’s a valuable service for Ketchikan, and should continue into future years.