Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer
Division of Environmental Health
PRESS RELEASEDate Released: 8/26/2005
Subject: Public Health Advisory Regarding Humboldt County Beaches
Contact: Harriet Hill, REHS, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215
COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
PHILLIP R. CRANDALL, DIRECTOR
PUBLIC HEALTH BRANCH
529 I Street Eureka, CA 95501
(707) 445-6200 Fax: (707) 445-6097
RELEASED BY: Alexandra Wineland, Director, Public Health Branch
CONTACT: Harriet Hill, REHS, Environmental Health Division
RELEASE DATE: August 26, 2005
Public Health Advisory Regarding Humboldt County Beaches
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Environmental Health Division is notifying recreational users of Humboldt County Beaches to take precautions to avoid contact with ocean water and creeks or rivers flowing on the beach whenever beaches are posted with yellow advisory signs. Due to occasional high bacterial levels in the ocean water at several beaches this summer, the Department has been posting signs warning surfers, swimmers and others to stay at least 50 yards away from creek or river mouths and avoid contact with the creeks or rivers at Trinidad, Luffenholtz, Moonstone and Clam beaches. These beaches, as well as the Mad River Beach, will continue to be posted throughout the summer and fall whenever water quality tests show that the state health standards for indicator bacteria are exceeded. The signs are removed from the beaches as soon as further testing shows that the ocean water meets health standards.
Humboldt County samples these beaches every week from April through October for 3 types of bacteria: Enterococcus, total coliform and fecal coliform. These bacteria are called “indicator” bacteria because they often are associated with other microscopic organisms that cause illness in humans, but the indicator bacteria usually are not harmful to humans themselves. The “indicators” also are much easier to grow in the lab than most bacteria or parasites that cause human diseases.
Bacteria are a natural component of the environment, and they also live in the intestines of birds and mammals other than humans such as dogs and seals. Intestinal bacteria and parasites that find their way into creek, river or ocean water may cause illnesses such as ear infections, stomach flu and skin rashes if people make contact with or drink the water.
As a general rule, DHHS recommends that swimmers and surfers avoid contact with ocean, creek or river water for at least 3 days after a heavy rainfall. Runoff after a storm can contain high levels of bacteria and pollutants. People can help reduce this stormwater pollution by maintaining their septic systems, picking up pet droppings and litter, keeping cattle and horses out of creeks and rivers, and reducing fertilizer and pesticide use in lawns and gardens. For further information and beach water quality data, readers should refer to the Humboldt County website at: www.co.humboldt.ca.us/health/envhealth/beachinfo or contact the Environmental Health Division at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241.