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DHS news release

Nov. 9, 2006

General contacts: Bonnie Widerburg, DHS: 971-673-1282
Robert Smith, Oregon Parks and Recreation: 503-986-0665, cell 503-551-3528

Program contacts: Jennifer Ketterman, DHS: 971-673-0431
Larry Caton, DEQ: 503-229-5491

Health advisories issued for water contact at six coastal locations

Public health advisories were issued Thursday due to higher-than-normal levels of bacteria in ocean waters at six beaches: Agate and Nye beaches in Lincoln County, Florence North Jetty beach in Lane County, Umpqua beach in Douglas County, and Bastendorff and Sunset Bay State Park beaches in Coos County.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in waterways are common after heavy rain events, when runoff can wash pollutants into streams and rivers, and sanitary sewers may overflow.

Water samples indicate higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria, which can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Direct contact with the water should be avoided until the advisories are lifted, especially for children and the elderly, who may be more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria.

While advisories are in effect at these six beaches, visitors should avoid wading in nearby creeks or in discolored water, and stay clear of water runoff flowing into the ocean. Even if there is no advisory in effect, officials recommend avoiding swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm.

State officials advise that the status of water contact advisories at beaches is subject to change. The most recent information on advisories can be found at the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program Web site or by calling 877-290-6767.

Although state officials discourage water contact, they continue to encourage other recreational activities on these beaches because they pose no health risk even during an advisory. Neighboring beaches are not affected by this advisory.

Since 2003, state officials have used a federal Environmental Protection Agency grant to monitor popular Oregon beaches and make timely reports to the public about elevated levels of fecal bacteria. Oregon state agencies participating in this program are the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. More detailed test results are available at the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program Web site.