Even before we received that striking photo last weekend from Craig, who took it over the Kingston-Edmonds ferry route and shared it after seeing the WSB report about “gross” greenish water off Alki during the hot weather at the end of last week, we promised to follow up and see what we could find out. We finally found our way to an expert at the state Ecology Department, courtesy of its media liaison Larry Altose: Dr. Christopher Krembs is Ecology’s Senior Oceanographer in the Marine Monitoring Unit of the Environmental Assessment Program. While on the phone with us, he took a look at the photo shown above – and listened to our relayed description of reader reports about the beach-level Alki sightings. Dr. Krembs said it’s tough for them to solve the mystery without actual samples. They had flown over areas of the Sound a few days earlier to look at blooms, he explained (read about the marine flight program here), but what they saw didn’t exactly match this photo. Most interesting outcome of our conversation: They pointed us, and anyone else interested, to this page full of information about marine algae blooms. As you’ll see on the bottom of the page – they want to hear from you if you spot something like this – they didn’t receive a report of the Alki sighting – but next time, here’s what to do:
Ecology has been conducting monthly monitoring of Puget Sound and Washington’s coastal estuaries for phytoplankton abundance and nutrients (as well as other parameters) for decades through our marine flight program. We are very interested to hear reports of bloom sightings so that we can direct our oceanographers to those locations to collect and analyze samples, and keep statistical information on their occurrence. Please note the date, time, location, and color of the bloom, and contact Dr. Christopher Krembs email@example.com with this information
One other important question we asked: Is it safe to go in the water during an algae bloom? According to Dr. Krembs, without a specific sample/identification, you can’t say for certain, but they’re “generally” not harmful. Regarding other water quality/health concerns, there’s an Alki monitoring station in the bacteria-watching BEACH program – here’s its page (current status: “good”).