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DEC Issues Advisory for Ketchikan Beaches

Enterococci bacteria may indicate a health risk

  • For immediate release — June 13, 2019
  • Contact: Gretchen Pikul, Division of Water, 907-465-5023

Juneau, AK — The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced an advisory for five 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 June 11, 2019 at 12 beaches. Five of these beaches showed elevated enterococci and fecal coliform levels. These beaches are:

  • Shull Road (south of Whipple Creek)
  • Refuge Cove Beach (south end of Refuge Cove Beach State Park)
  • Thomas Basin (Stedman Street Bridge, mouth of Ketchikan Creek)
  • Rotary Pool, also known as Bugges Beach (south of Saxman)
  • Mountain Point – Cultural Foods location (near Mountain Point boat launch)

Until sample results consistently meet water quality standards and DEC lifts this advisory, people should take precautionary measures when visiting the five beaches listed above. DEC recommends beach users take normal precautions to avoid exposure, such as avoid swimming in the water, and washing after contact with the water. 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 also above state limits protecting consumption of raw fish and shellfish at six additional beaches: Knudson Cove, South Point Higgins Beach, Seaport Beach, Rotary Beach, Herring Cove Beach and Mountain Point Surprise Beach. A recreational advisory is not in effect for these beaches, but cleaning and cooking fish is highly recommended.

As part of a statewide recreational beach monitoring program, marine water samples will be collected at specific coastal areas to evaluate fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria levels weekly from May to September 2019. Monitoring locations maps and sampling information 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 this bacteria on Ketchikan beaches may include wildlife and pet feces, human waste from private and municipal treatment systems, sewer line leakage, and/or boats in harbor areas.

The BEACH sampling program 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. Water samples have been collected periodically at Ketchikan beaches since 2017.

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

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