The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Environmental Health Division is notifying recreational users of Mad River, Clam, and Moonstone Beaches to avoid contact with ocean water near the mouths of the rivers and creeks on these beaches. People should also stay out of the rivers and creeks themselves.
Due to high bacterial levels in the water, the Department has posted yellow signs warning surfers, swimmers and others to stay at least 50 yards away from the mouth or opening of the Mad River, Strawberry Creek, and Little River, and to not wade or swim in these water bodies. Water quality testing indicates that the state health standard for Enterococcus faecalis was exceeded at all these beaches this week.
In addition, the fecal coliform and the fecal coliform/total coliform standards were exceeded at the Mad River mouth, and the latter standard also was exceeded at Moonstone Beach.
Enterococcus, E. coli, and total coliform are types of indicator bacteria whose presence often is associated with that of disease-causing bugs. These indicator bacteria do not usually cause illness in swimmers. However, high levels of the indicators mean that the water may be contaminated with other bugs that can make people sick. Indicator bacteria are routinely tested for because they are much easier to grow in the lab than most of the harmful small organisms.
DHHS is currently retesting the water at all three beaches. The warning signs will be removed as soon as results show that state water quality standards have been met. Monday’s heavy rainfall was typical of the kind of weather that often results in contamination of waterways throughout the state. As a routine precaution, DHHS recommends that people not swim or surf in creeks, rivers or within 100 yards of any river or creek mouth for three days after a rainstorm. Rain water carries pollutants and contaminants from the land into water bodies, especially after big storms.
Community members can take many steps to help prevent creek and ocean water pollution. Conserving water, reducing runoff (planting rather than paving landscapes, and encouraging natural vegetation), maintaining septic systems, properly disposing of pet waste and boat waste, fixing car leaks, recycling used motor oil, and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use are some recommended measures.
Weekly water quality data for the beaches monitored by the Environmental Health Division is posted on the Humboldt County website at: www.co.humboldt.ca.us/health/envhealth/beachinfo.
The website also has more detail on pollution prevention measures, and a complete record of water quality data for the beach monitoring program. For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division at 707-445-6215.