Health warning at Point Whitney, Irondale beaches

Fecal bacteria levels high

PORT TOWNSEND — High levels of fecal bacteria at Point Whitney beach in Brinnon and Irondale beach in Port Hadlock have prompted Jefferson County Public Health to issue a health warning.

The cause of the high bacteria levels is under investigation.

Children, the elderly, and those in ill health are advised not to swim. Shellfish harvesting also is not advised. Warning signs have been posted at public access points.

Water samples taken Tuesday and analyzed for enterococcus, a type of fecal bacteria, averaged over 600 entero per 100 milliliters of water at Point Whitney. The Washington BEACH ( Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health) program advisory level is 104.

By Thursday, the average had climbed to over 800. Irondale beach bacteria levels were 105 on Tuesday, and 276 on Thursday.

Fecal bacteria are indicators of pathogens that can make people sick. Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses. Shellfish, being filter feeders, can concentrate contaminants from the water into their tissues.

Jefferson County Public Health monitors local saltwater swimming beaches weekly from Memorial Day through Labor Day as part of the Washington BEACH program.

For more about this and other Jefferson County beaches, call 360-385-9444 or visit jeffersoncounty publichealth.org. To find out about conditions at monitored beaches throughout Washington, see the Ecology Coastal Atlas at fortress.wa.gov/ecy/coastalatlas.

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