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DHS news release

October 22, 2004 Contact: Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, (503) 731-4180, Robert Smith, OPRD (503) 986-0665
Technical contacts: Cindy Gaines, DHS (503) 731-4012, Larry Caton, DEQ (503) 229-5491

Health advisories for water contact at Oswald West State Park beach and Agate Beach

What: Public health advisories are now in effect at Oswald West State Park beach in Tillamook County and Agate Beach in Lincoln County due to higher than normal levels of bacteria in beach waters. The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is issuing the advisories in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Local residents and visitors are advised to avoid contact with waters at these beaches until the advisories are lifted. Children and the elderly in particular may be vulnerable to waterborne bacteria.

Water tests indicate higher than normal levels of Enterococcus, a type of fecal bacteria, in these waters. Based on the frequency and types of use of Oregon’s ocean waters and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations, DHS considers an acceptable concentration of Enterococcus to be 158 organisms per 100 milliliters of marine water. Water contact advisories are issued when Enterococcus levels are at or above 158 organisms per 100 milliliters of marine water.

On October 19, Oswald West State Park beach water tests at the northern most part of the beach were at 329 organisms/100 milliliters of marine water. Agate Beach water tests at the northern most part of the beach against Yaquina Head were at 319 organisms/100 milliliters of marine water.

The advisories are in effect beginning today until follow-up samples show that bacterial levels have returned to normal. A news release will be issued when the advisories are lifted.

Action: Local residents and beach visitors should take these precautions while these advisories are in effect:

  • Play on the dry sand or above the high tide line instead of swimming.
  • Do not wade in creeks or in any area where the water is discolored.
  • Stay away from storm drain water or runoff and from ocean waters where runoff flows into the ocean. Maintain a safe distance of at least 100 yards in either direction.
  • Avoid swimming in the ocean within 72 hours after a rainstorm.
Background: Swimming in contaminated water can result in illnesses such as skin rashes, infections of the eyes, ears, nose and throat, and gastroenteritis. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include mild fever, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Even when swimming in marine waters with normal levels of bacteria, there is still a 2 percent chance of contracting a swimming associated illness.

Bacterial contamination in coastal recreational waters can originate from a variety of sources, such as shoreline development, wastewater collection and treatment facilities, septic tanks, urban runoff, disposal of human waste from boats, bathers themselves, commercial and domestic animals and natural animal sources such as wildlife.

Water quality is monitored at 19 beaches along the coast under the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program, funded by a grant from the EPA. Water samples are tested for Enterococcus bacteria, a microorganism that has been shown to have a greater correlation in marine waters with swimming-associated illnesses than other bacterial organisms.

Information: For information about water quality testing, contact DEQ at (503) 229-5349. Information can also be obtained through the Beach Program at (503) 731-4012 or from the DHS Web site.