Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 6/23/2005
Subject: Public Health Warning Issued for Luffenholtz Beach
Contact: Jim Clark, Supervising Environmental Health Specialist, Environmental Health Division,
Phone: (707) 445-6215

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Environmental Health Division is notifying recreational users of Luffenholtz Beach to take precautions to avoid contact with ocean water near the mouth of Luffenholtz Creek at this beach. Due to high bacterial levels in the water, the Department has posted signs warning surfers, swimmers and others to stay at least 50 yards away from the mouth or opening of Luffenholtz Creek. Water quality testing indicates that the state health standards for Enterococcus faecalis and fecal coliform/total coliform were exceeded this week.

Enterococcus, fecal coliform and total coliform are types of “indicator” bacteria whose presence often is associated with that of disease-causing microbes. It is difficult to detect every pathogenic organism in the water due to the wide array of microbes in the natural environment. Thus, indicator organisms are used because they are easy to detect. Indicator bacteria only suggest the presence of disease-causing organisms, and generally are not pathogenic themselves.

Bacteria are a natural component of the environment, and they also inhabit the intestinal tracts of birds and mammals. When intestinal bacteria are released into the environment, there is a chance that they may cause illnesses such as ear infections, stomach flu and skin rashes in people who make contact with the contaminated water.

DHHS is currently re-sampling the water at Luffenholtz Beach. The public will be notified as soon as results show that the water off this beach meets state health standards and the warning has been lifted. DHHS recommends that people avoid contact with ocean, creek or river water for at least 3 days after a rainfall. Stormwater runoff can contain high levels of bacteria and pollutants. For further information and beach water quality data, readers should refer to the Humboldt County website at: or contact the Environmental Health Division at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241.


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