Blue Water Task Force, Partnerships, Solutions, Source Identification
October 21 2015

Newport BWTF and City Investigate Nye Beach Bacteria in Oregon

Recent water quality monitoring has demonstrated some high bacteria at Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon.  With support from the Oregon Community Foundation the Newport Chapter's Blue Water Task Force has been able to expand its water testing efforts to partner with the City of Newport to monitor upstream to try and locate and address the source of pollution.  The relationship that the Newport Surfrider Chapter has developed with the City of Newport over the decade, is a great example for all citizen science programs on how to make your volunteer generated water quality data impactful to build community awareness of pollution programs and to bring together government and other stakeholders to find and fix sources of pollution. 

The Newport Chapter has been a strong advocate for improving water quality conditions in Nye Beach since the late 90s. Preceding the start of the state’s beach monitoring program, Surfrider has been testing Nye Beach for over 10 years now, measuring bacteria against recreational health advisory standards to better inform the public and beach/ocean recreational users of risks associated with water contact and to advocate for pollution solutions. It took several years of constant appearances at City council meetings and unique partnerships between City officials and volunteers to finally gain momentum in addressing ongoing bacteria issues at Nye Beach. Today, the chapter works in strong collaboration with the City, and when bacteria readings are high, the City responds quickly to help snuff out and eliminate the source.

“We use to go to Newport City Council meetings for months/years advocating for additional source sampling for these bacteria issues…today, they (City of Newport) call us and ask for our support when they see high readings," says Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager for Surfrider Foundation.

This is what a Blue Water Task Force true collaboration looks like.  Identifying and solving pollution issues is why this program exists. It just takes some patience, persistence, and good will.  Let's learn more.

Following up on high readings from the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program and subsequent high bacteria readings from the Newport Chapter’s BWTF program in late September, the City of Newport requested additional upstream sampling from the Nye creek outfall and helped put together a plan with Surfrider to sample these areas. Working together, chapter volunteers and the City are following the path of the creek upstream, sampling both within the creek and inside stormwater manholes, where much of the creek flows under our developed urban area.

Given the bacterial readings have been high for a couple of weeks, the City believes the source likely is coming from a residential sewer line that’s either failing or mis-connected. With over 90 miles of stormwater and sewer pipes underneath the City of Newport, there are a lot of places to look for the source; but, by dividing these drainage lines and pipes into sub-regions and sampling multiple times a week, the City and the Chapter are already gaining ground. It’s as much an elimination game as it is a sourcing plan.

The Chapter’s initial testing helped eliminate the Sam Moore Creek basin (northerly portion of map above), which is a large portion of Nye Beach residential area that drains into Nye Creek. With that portion eliminated, the Chapter and the City can now focus on a smaller area, adding more sites to further narrow down the source. Assistant City Engineer Olaf Sweetman has been helping to identify these smaller regions, mapping additional sites as well as assisting the Chapter’s BWTF volunteers in accessing the pipes under the street, removing manhole covers and controlling traffic during sampling events.

Nye Beach has historically suffered extremely poor water quality conditions; however, over the past few years many of the sources of bacteria contributing to these conditions have been identified and eliminated. In fact, up until late 2014, Nye Beach had been receiving relatively clean water quality readings for almost 3 years. While that might not sound like an eternity, for local volunteers who had been measuring high readings consistently for over 7 years prior, it was a major success.