Recent water quality monitoring has demonstrated some high bacteria at Nye Beach the past couple of weeks in Newport and the local Surfrider Chapter and City of Newport are doubling down on monitoring upstream to try and locate and address the source. It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last, but the longstanding partnership between the chapter’s Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) monitoring program and the City is gaining ground on the source.

Surfrider volunteer Delores Williams samples the creek outfall at Nye Beach

Surfrider volunteer Delores Williams samples the creek outfall at Nye Beach

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.

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City of Newport assistant engineer slows traffic while a Surfrider volunteer samples a stormwater manhole upstream of Nye Beach

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.

A map of initial upstream sampling sites

A map of initial upstream sampling sites

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.

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A sign at the outfall of Nye Creek advises public given chronic bacteria problems at this location

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.

The Newport Chapter has been a strong advocate for improving water quality conditions in Nye Beach since the late 90s. Preceding 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 as well as to help 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.