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DEC Finds Elevated Bacteria Levels at Six Coastal Areas in Ketchikan

For immediate release — August 14, 2018

Contact: Nancy Sonafrank, Division of Air Quality, 907-451-2726,

Juneau, AK — The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued an advisory for six coastal areas in Ketchikan due to elevated levels of bacteria in recent samples of the marine water at these locations.

Water samples were collected on August 9, 2018, with six beaches showing elevated enterococci and fecal coliform levels. These beaches include:

  • South Point Higgins Beach (on Port Higgins)
  • Shull Beach (south of Whipple Creek)
  • Sunset Beach (south end of Mud Bay)
  • Thomas Basin (Stedman Street Bridge, mouth of Ketchikan Creek)
  • Rotary Beach, pool location (also known as Bugges Beach, south of Saxman)
  • Herring Cove Beach (north end of Herring Cove)

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, washing after contact with the water, and rinsing fish with clean water after harvesting from the area. DEC recommends that when fishing in these areas people should rinse fish/marine foods with clean water and cook seafood to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy pathogens.

Fecal coliform bacteria levels were above state limits protecting consumption of raw fish and shellfish at two additional beaches on South Refuge Cove and Mountain Point (cultural food location). A recreational advisory is not in effect for these beaches, but cleaning and cooking fish is recommended.

Marine water samples have been collected weekly at 11 beaches near Ketchikan since May 17, for a total of 13 weekly sampling events this year.

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

Enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria can come from any warm blooded animal, including birds, seals, and dogs, as well as humans. Potential sources of these 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 or fecal coliform 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.

The beach sampling program is being funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant program and is being implemented by DEC. It is part of a nationwide effort to decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches. For more information about the Alaska beach monitoring program, visit the Alaska BEACH Grant Program Website.

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