Fills Up

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has lifted the health advisory at D River Beach.

On May 22, the OHA issued the advisory after water samples showed higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria in ocean waters. Results from later samples taken by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on May 23, showed a lower level of bacteria in the water.

OHA stated contact with the water no longer poses a higher-than-normal risk. However, they still recommend staying out of large pools on the beach that are visited by birds, as well as staying clear of the runoff from those pools because the water may contain increased bacteria from fecal matter.

OHA and the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program (OBMP) monitor the waters along Oregon’s coastline for the presence of fecal bacteria and report elevated levels to the public. The beaches are monitored Labor Day through Memorial Day on a three week rotating schedule.

The ocean waters are tested for enterococcus, which is large genus of lactic acid bacteria, commonly found in the guts of animals, including humans. These intestinal bacteria make their way into the outer world via feces. High levels of enterococci at the beach indicate the waters may also contain other disease-causing microbes that are present in sewage but are more difficult to detect. The bacteria are capable of causing upset stomachs, diarrhea, rashes or earaches.

“Enterococcus can enter marine waters from a variety of sources such as streams and creeks, storm water runoff, animal and seabird waste, failing septic systems, sewage treatment plant spills or boating waste,” Communications Officer for OHA Delia Hernandez said. “OBMP’s testing methods do not identify the source of the bacteria, only the result value.”

Marine water quality samples collected at D River Beach exceeded the beach action value (BAV) of 130 MPN (enterococcus). MPN level results came back at 185 and 155 during the first samplings at the D River north corner of the parking lot. DEQ also tested other areas around D River Beach including at the Hwy 101 bridge, west of the restroom and 200 meters south of the restroom. Other area MPN levels were no higher than 20.

According to Hernandez, health advisories are pretty common on Oregon beaches. Since 2004, OBMP has approximately 10 health advisories each beach monitoring season in Oregon. Occasionally, she said certain beaches are more prone to health advisories.

“It does happen, where we see multiple health advisories issued for the same beach during the monitoring season,” Hernandez said. “When there are trends of elevated bacteria levels at beaches, OBMP will work with local jurisdictions to conduct investigational sampling studies to help identify and resolve the contamination issue.”

Once a health advisory is issued for a beach, OBMP will collect re-samples within 48 hours of the positive test. If the re-sample comes through with lower levels of bacteria, the advisory is lifted and if not, the health advisory will stay in effect until further sampling shows lower bacteria levels.

“Sometimes health advisories are lifted the same week and sometimes it can take several weeks to lift an advisory,” Hernandez said.

The advisory at D River Beach was lifted after the first resample.

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