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DHS news release

June 8, 2005


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Technical contacts: Shannon Levitt, DHS (971) 673-0438
Robert Smith, Parks & Recreation (503) 986-0665; cell (503) 551-3528


Advisory signs erected at 12 Oregon beaches



The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) is placing new advisory signs at 12 beaches along the Oregon coast to help inform visitors about water quality at those specific areas.


They will be posted at state parks at which wat​er is monitored  and at Bastendorff County Park in Coos County.


The signs are the latest element in a monitoring program that DHS initiated at heavily used recreational beaches in 2003. When higher-than-normal levels of bacteria are detected, DHS issues a health advisory.


"These signs are another step in our efforts to keep the public informed," said Shannon Levitt, DHS health educator. "We want people to enjoy the beach, but to be aware when we've detected higher than normal levels of bacteria in the water."


Levitt said that additional beaches will receive signs in the future.


Swallowing contaminated water can cause gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory and other illnesses. Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria, according to Levitt.


The signs are permanent and have a flip-down feature. Visitors are greeted with a notice that periodic water monitoring is underway and that recent tests indicate normal bacterial levels.


If a water test shows high bacteria levels, the sign is unfolded to warn that a health advisory is in effect. Water contact is discouraged, but other beach activities are encouraged.


"We want visitors to have a good time walking and playing on the beach," Levitt said, "But they should avoid any activities that might cause them to swallow water, such as swimming, diving and kayaking."


Levitt also advises people to wash their hands thoroughly after playing in or around water with higher-than-normal bacteria levels. Pets should be kept out of the water to prevent them from drinking the water.


The beach monitoring program is funded by a federal Environmental Protection Agency grant. DHS administers the program, with help from Oregon Parks and Recreation and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.