Coast Tip: Avoiding Polluted Waters

On Tuesday, August 28, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued a recreational use health advisory for Newport’s popular Nye and Agate beaches. This was due to elevated levels of potentially toxic bacteria found in water samples taken at these beaches.

Within OHA, the Oregon Beach Monitoring Program (OBMP) works with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Parks and Recreation Department to take weekly to monthly water quality measurements at recreational beaches along the coast. Special care is taken to regularly monitor those beaches in especially populated or touristy areas, such as Nye and Agate. 

Of special concern at these beaches are enterococci bacteria, which are present in the intestines of all warm-blooded animals, and exit them via their feces. When found at higher than normal levels in a water sample, such fecal bacteria indicate that other bacteria that make humans sick upon contact may also be in the water. 

After contact with contaminated water, sickness may manifest itself in the form of nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, chills and fever, as well as skin rashes and infections of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Children, elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems are especially at risk for these unpleasant symptoms. 

Sources that may be the cause for elevated levels of fecal bacteria include stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems, and animal waste from livestock, pets and wildlife, or a combination of these. In many coastal communities, it is difficult to track where pollution may be entering waterways due to limited resources, and as coastal development and summer populations increase, it is often even harder to keep up. 

However, OBMP says visitors can help prevent contamination by conserving their water use, only using designated restrooms at beaches, and by appropriately disposing of pet waste, boating waste, and other trash. For folks who live within coastal watersheds, it is especially important to properly maintain septic systems and to utilize natural products in landscaping.  

Until the health advisory is lifted at Nye and Agate, visitors should avoid contact with both ocean and nearby fresh waters, but are safe to take part in other beach activities. 

You can also avoid future potential illness by checking the following link before you make your water-going plans: www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HEALTHYENVIRONMENTS/RECREATION/BEACHWATER QUALITY/Pages/status.aspx

By Ari Blatt 

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