By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Public health officials Friday warned against any contact with water in the harbor for the next week — through next Friday — because of the danger of it containing fecal bacteria.
The Clallam County Environmental Health Division issued the warning after rainfall Wednesday and Thursday forced the untreated sewage and stormwater into the harbor from the city's four combined sewer overflow outfalls.
Two outfalls discharge near the newly completed downtown waterfront esplanade.
One sends water into Peabody Creek near where it meets the harbor, and the fourth discharges into the harbor near Francis Street Park.
Contact with the fecal bacteria in the sewage could result in skin rashes, respiratory infections and other illnesses, according to the county health division.
Combined sewer outfall discharges happen when heavy rains overwhelm the city's sewer lines, forcing stormwater and sewage into the harbor so they don't back up into homes, businesses or city streets, according to city officials.
The last no-contact warning for harbor water was issued Oct. 3 and was lifted the following week after heavy rain between Sept. 28 and Oct. 1 sent an estimated 8 million gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the harbor.
The city is working on a $42 million project, the largest public works project in the city's history, to reduce combined sewer outfall discharges under a state Department of Ecology mandate to do so by 2016.
The work includes retrofitting a 5 million-gallon storage tank the city bought on the former Rayonier mill property to hold untreated stormwater and sewage during heavy rains until it can be treated in the city's wastewater-treatment plant near the former mill site.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.