Officials hope to lift bacteria warnings at Harris Beach by the Fourth

The state park and beach have been under the fecal-bacteria warnings since Monday

BROOKINGS — State public-health officials hope today to lift a bacteria-related advisory against water contact at Harris Beach in time for inland refugees seeking respite from triple-digit Fourth of July heat.

The voluntary advisory against water contact along the beach was enacted Monday after water tests showed bacteria levels slightly over the Oregon Health Authority's threshold.

The fecal bacteria can cause anything from diarrhea and stomach cramps to skin rashes or no reaction at all, but its largest threat is to the elderly, children and those more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria. It generally hits the beach during post-rainstorm runoff from inland, where everything from livestock to leaking septic systems can be sources.

Members of the OHA's Beach Monitoring Program were back at the Brookings-area beach Monday afternoon to collect more water samples, said David Farrar, a public-health toxicologist for the OHA.

Those samples should be ready for reading by later this morning or early this afternoon, Farrar said. Follow-up samples often come back under public-health standards after two days or more without new runoff to beaches, allowing the bacteria levels to dilute.

"We haven't had any rain since (Friday's) sample was taken," Farrar said. "If everything goes as we expected, those results will come back clean and the advisory will be lifted."

Oregon State Parks officials, who regularly deal with such advisories along Oregon beaches, flipped open their metal advisory signs Monday, but there were no known cancellations for campsite or yurt reservations immediately after the advisory, state parks spokesman Robert Smith said Monday.

"These exceedences can come several times a year," Smith said. "Usually, they clear up pretty quickly."

While the advisory against water contact is only voluntary, it includes nearby creeks as well as any discolored water.

The rule of thumb is to stay out of the surf for 48 hours after a storm, even if the water appears to be clear, Smith said.

The Oregon Beach Monitoring Program monitors the waters along Oregon's coastline for the presence of fecal bacteria annually from Labor Day through Memorial Day.

Marine waters are tested for enterococcus, which is an indicator of the presence of other bacteria. Enterococcus is present in human and animal waste.

Harris Beach marked the third such advisory against water contact at an Oregon beach this summer, Smith said. Advisories were issued, then lifted, last month at Cannon Beach and Seaside, he said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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