Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for June, 2010

Public Data Ferret On KOM0 1000: Beach Water Quality

by June 30th, 2010

Yesterday on my regular weekly KOMO 1000 radio segment highlighting our Public Data Ferret project, the topic was swimming beach water quality. Here’s the audio file, and the original Ferret write-up. Now, the full transcript of the segment.

Nancy Barrick: “And are you heading to the beach this summer, planning to, if we get some nice weather? Make sure the water isn’t polluted. Matt Rosenberg with is on the news line, our Public Data Ferret. And Matt, how about this King County link that you’re checking out, when it comes to beaches?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Yeah. Lately we’ve heard quite a bit about concerns on the swimming water around Golden Gardens Beach in Seattle, and fecal coliform bacteria. But what about all the other beaches around here? And that’s where this great site from King County comes in. Their swimming beach bacteria measurements are very helpful. They check out 28 different public swimming beaches or streams, all summer long, and they report it online. And it’s a really good site to check out before you head out with the kids.”

“In fact, there’ve been 16 beach closures due to this bacteria since 1998 and the worst trouble spots have been Juanita, Meydenbauer Bay, Matthews and Gene Coulon beaches. So far this season, just one closure, at Hidden Lake, in Shoreline – but there have been 11 other instances where bacteria levels raised some concerns. The site is real intuitive. Maps, clickable, lots of data coming right at you. So I highly recommend it.”

Carleen Johnson: “And Matt, what about the state site, where you can check out the safety of shellfish harvesting?”

Matt Rosenberg: That’s an excellent site the state provides. And some of the beaches in Seattle on the Puget Sound side are covered there, not by the county site. But they also report on shellfish harvesting, where it’s safe and where it’s not. And as most Washingtonians know, there are always a lot of these sites (that) are closed, so you really want to check there first. And also, while we’re talking about water safety in the summer, King County warns that, you know, there were 16 drownings in open waters in King County last year. So at their beach site they also have some information on the data and prevention tips for people who are swimming. You want to stay safe.”

Nancy Barrick: “Good information. Thank you Matt Rosenberg of, our Public Data Ferret.”

King County Beaches – Fecal Coliform Bacteria Data

by June 28th, 2010

BACKGROUND: The King County Water and Land Resources Division monitors levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the water, plus algal toxins and water temperatures at a total of 28 swimming beaches or creeks in King County – including several in Seattle on Lake Washington. Beaches and creeks are limited to those under jurisdiction of County’s freshwater program. From the week before Memorial Day through the week after Labor Day, the division posts weekly reports at a special Web site which prospective visitors can check before choosing a beach at which to swim. In the last 12 years, the county has posted closure notices 16 times for elevated bacteria levels and once for algal toxins.

Except for a recent closure at Hidden Lake in Shoreline, all those are catalogued in this historical summary of closures which includes locations and causes. Six were at Juanita Beach in Kirkland, three each were at Meydenbauer Bay Beach in Bellevue and Matthews Beach in Seattle, two at Gene Coulon Beach in Renton and one at Madison Park Beach in Seattle. Beach users can also review the full history of readings for a beach, at the historical monitoring data page. Select a beach and then “all years” from the pull-down menu.


Whenever reported fecal coliform or algae toxin levels are in the moderate concern category, the results are marked with a yellow overlay; red means closure notices were to be posted. According to the Division’s FAQ page, “fecal contamination from waterfowl, dogs and cats, surface run-off from poorly drained grassy areas adjacent to the beach, high concentrations from nearby creeks, and poor water circulation in the swimming area may contribute to the high bacterial counts.” Other causes identified include storm water inflow, hosing goose droppings off docks into the water, and discharge from a vessel in an adjacent marina. When swimming water has highly elevated fecal coliform levels then accidental ingestion by swimmers can heighten the risk of gastrointestinal distress. Separately, presence of blue and green algae can lead to development of nerve toxins in swimming water, which can cause respiratory and other problems.

King County Water and Land Resources Division, Database of historical readings and current weekly reports on fecal coliform bacteria, algal toxin levels and water temperature at King County swimming beaches and creeks. So far in the 2010 season, concerns have been confined to eight sites. Yellow levels have been reported 11 times altogether, and one closure notice posted.

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Washington Hospital Infection Rates

by June 23rd, 2010

Yesterday in my regular weekly segment on KOMO 1000 News Radio Seattle featuring news from our Public Data Ferret government transparency project, I highlighted online information from the state on hospital infection rates. Here’s the original Ferret write-up and audio of the segment. The transcript follows.

Nancy Barrick: “And how about hospital infections, that’s our topic today with Matt Rosenberg, of, that’s where you can use their feature the Public Data Ferret. And Matt, you know, going to the hospital, pretty stressful event, and now, an increasing risk of infections going on with hospital stays. What have you found about tracking the record of hospitals?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well good morning Nancy and Bill. The State Department of Health here in Washington publishes online annual data revealing which hospitals have the highest rates of infection from tubing and ventilators. What you do, is you got to the department’s “Hospital-Associated Infection Performance Data” hub. I know that’s a mouthful, we’ve got a link to it at our post at Data Ferret, and there, you can use handy interactive maps and tables to learn more. So, naturally, I checked it out. One of the two big categories is infections from what are called “central line tubing.” And we’ve all seen this stuff, it’s used to deliver fluids or drugs or take blood samples or even monitor the pressure of inside heart arteries.”

“And the four hospitals units in the state with the highest central line infection rates, in 2009 according the state department of health, were the adult medical surgical intensive care units at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill in Seattle, and the neonatal ICU at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.”

“Now, I do want to share the second major category, and that’s ventilator-associated pneumonia infections. Eight facilities were reported by the state as having high rates in 2009. Harrison, again, in Bremerton, plus Overlake Medical Center In Bellevue, Mary Bridge Children’s in Tacoma, St. Clare in Lakewood, Peace Health St. John in Longview, Legacy Salmon Creek in Vancouver, Holy Family in Spokane and Valley Medical Center in Spokane Valley.”

Bill Rice: “And real quick Matt, where can we get more information?”

Matt Rosenberg: “More at our site. And I do want to share that education on how to prevent this stuff is important. We link to that, there are a lot of sanitary steps that are very crucial, and the state also reports something called ‘adverse events’ such as surgical tools being left inside bodies or fatal falls, but they just give raw numbers, not rates. We’ll be following that with the state to see if they can get the data in better shape.”

Nancy Barrick: “All the news we don’t want to know, but should. Thank you so much, Matt Rosenberg with”

Washington State Hospital Infection Rates

by June 21st, 2010

BACKGROUND: “Central line” tubing, ventilators and surgery all provide an opportunity for hospital patients to become infected. The Washington State Department of Health tracks annual infection rates at hospitals in the first two categories and publishes them online. Infection rates for certain types of surgical procedures will be reported starting no later than 2013. Central lines are long tubes inserted in the neck, chest, leg or arm to deliver fluids or drugs or take samples of blood or monitor pressure of inside heart arteries. They can become infected if enough germs move through them. Ventilators can give rise to pneumonia infections if enough germs enter the air stream or leak around the tubing. Surgery also presents an opportunity for infection if germs enter a wound during or immediately after the procedure. The state classifies different types of hospitals differently, according to types of patients and associated infection risk factors – and sets infection rate standards accordingly.


Washington State Department of Health, Hospital-Associated Infection (HAI) Performance Data information hub.

Central Line Infection Rate Map, Washington Hospitals 2009. This map marks in red those hospitals with high central line infection rates for 2009, and those with average rates in green. Click on any portion of the map to go to that quadrant of the state, then view rate of infection per 1,000 line days by positioning your mouse over any hospital. At bottom, each quadrant map also includes explanations and corrective steps for any hospitals with high rates. Of the four hospitals in Washington state with high rates of central line infections in 2009, three were in the Northwest quadrant: Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Adult Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), 2.01 infections per 1,000 line days; Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Adult Medical Surgical ICU, 2.8 per 1,000; and Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill in Seattle, Adult Medical Surgical ICU, 1.97 per 1,000. Explanations for all three here. The fourth was Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, Neonatal ICU, 8.55 per 1,000. Explanation here.

Central line infection rates for 2009 are also listed by table, for each hospital and type of ICU. The state’s HAI program provides information on best practices to avoid central line infections. These include use of gowns, masks and drapes; sanitary handling of the lines; and careful cleaning around the insertion site.

Ventilator Associated Pneumonia Infection Rate Map, Washington Hospitals 2009. This map marks in red the eight Washington hospitals with high ventilator associated pneumonia infection rates for 2009, and those with average rates in green. Click on any portion of the map to go to that quadrant of the state, then view rate of infection per 1,000 ventilator days by positioning your mouse over any hospital. At bottom, each quadrant map also includes explanations and corrective steps for any hospitals with high rates. In the state’s Northwest quadrant, high 2009 rates for ventilator associated pneumonia infection were reported for Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, 2.22 infections per 1,000 ventilator days; and for Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, 0.72 infections per 1,000 ventilator days. Explanations and corrective actions discussed here. In the Southwest quadrant, high rates were reported at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, 5.97 per 1,000 ventilator days (until June of 2009); Saint Clare Hospital in Lakewood, 1.33 per 1,000; Peace Health St. John Medical Center in Longview, 7.31; and Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital in Vancouver, 2.58. Explanations here. In the Northeast quadrant, high rates were reported at Holy Family Hospital In Spokane, 2.46 per 1,000 ventilator days; and Valley Medical Center in Spokane Valley, 1.34 per 1,000. Explanations here.

Statewide ventilator associated infection rates for hospitals are also listed in table form. HAI best practices on preventing ventilator associated infections are discussed here. They include disinfection and sterilization of instruments between patients; wearing of gloves and hand washing between patients; and checking daily to see if ventilator is no longer needed.

Surgical infections rates will be publicly reported in Washington State not later than 2013 for certain procedures only, under state law – cardiac surgery, total hip and knee replacements, and hysterectomies. More details here.

King County: Ordinance Creating Open Data Web Site

by June 15th, 2010

SUMMARY: On May 17, the Metropolitan King County Council passed Ordinance 16838, establishing the county will create an unrestricted public website providing access to high value data sets.

BACKGROUND: The ordinance comes at a time where municipalities are making more and more data “open” to encourage civic participation in politics and government transparency. The proliferation of web and mobile technology has allowed cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle to release public data to software developers, and numerous applications have been created. King County Executive Dow Constantine has been an advocate for greater constituent access to government, greater government transparency, and facilitating opportunities for private-sector software developers to build applications based on government data sets.

KEY DOCUMENT: King County Ordinance 16838, May 17, 2010.

KEY FINDINGS: The ordinance requires the county to strive to publish existing, high value data sets appropriate for unrestricted public access on a single web site. By August 1, 2010, a list of the initial high-value data sets and procedural documentation are to be filed with the council clerk. The web site is to be online by November 1, 2010.

High value data sets are defined as related to core county services, and which “improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations, increase government accountability and responsiveness or create economic opportunity.” High value data sets, as defined by the ordinance, will not typically include documents, emails, or calendars. The “open format” requirement means no particular software or hardware should be required to view a data set. The open data Web site will include information on each data set, terms of use, information contact, and a mechanism for public input on usefulness and prioritization of initial data sets.

RELATED: Although the official open data Web site is not yet live, more information is available at a working Web page on the initiative, which includes a press release on and video of a June 8, 2010 open data workshop hosted by King County.