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DEC Finds Elevated Bacteria Levels on Coastal Area in Ketchikan

For immediate release—May 24, 2018

Contact: Nancy Sonafrank, Division of Water, 907-451-2726, nancy.sonafrank@alaska.gov

Enterococci bacteria may indicate a health risk

Juneau, AK—The Department of Environmental Conservation has announced an advisory for the beach at Knudson Cove in Ketchikan due to elevated levels of enterococci bacteria found in in recent samples of the marine water at this location.

Until sample results consistently meet water quality standards and DEC lifts this advisory, people should take precautionary measures when recreating. DEC recommends beach users take normal precautions to avoid exposure, such as avoid swimming in the water, wash after contact with the water, and rinse fish with clean water after harvesting from the area. As always, people should cook seafood to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy pathogens.

Water samples were collected on May 17 and 22, 2018, with only the beach at Knudson Cove showing elevated levels on both sampling dates. All of the other tested locations meet water quality criteria for enterococci bacteria at this time. Fecal coliform bacteria levels at some sites were occasionally above criteria, but results were not persistent so an advisory was not issued. Samples were taken at:

  • Knudson Cove (16 miles north of Ketchikan, near Clover Pass)
  • Beacon Hill (off of North Point Higgins Road)
  • South Point Higgins Beach (on Port Higgins)
  • Shull Road (south of Whipple Creek)
  • Sunset Beach (south end of Mud Bay)
  • Refuge Cove Beach (south end of Refuge Cove Beach State Park)
  • Thomas Basin (Stedman Street Bridge, mouth of Ketchikan Creek)
  • Seaport Beach (near Saxman)
  • Rotary Beach and Rotary Pool, also known as Bugges Beach (south of Saxman)
  • Mountain Point – Surprise Beach and Cultural Foods location (near Mountain Point boat launch)
  • Herring Cove Beach (north end of Herring Cove)

As part of a statewide recreational beach monitoring program, marine water samples will be collected at the listed coastal areas to evaluate fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria levels from May 17 – September 12. Monitoring locations maps are shown on the Alaska BEACH Grant Program Website.

Enterococci bacteria can come from any warm blooded animal, including birds, seals, and dogs, as well as humans. Potential sources of this bacteria in Ketchikan may include wildlife and pet feces, human waste from private and municipal treatment systems, sewer line leakage, and/or boats in harbor areas. Contact with water impacted by enterococci bacteria may cause stomach aches, diarrhea, or ear, eye, and skin infections.

The beach sampling program is in its second year, and is funded and implemented by DEC. It is part of a nationwide effort to decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. Since 2002, the Alaska’s BEACH Program has been monitoring recreational beaches throughout the state, including other communities in southeast Alaska: Douglas Island, Haines, Juneau, Petersburg, and Wrangell. Sample results have not shown persistent elevated levels of bacteria in these communities.

For more information about the Alaska beach monitoring program, visit the Alaska BEACH Grant Program Website.