BROOKINGS — A volunteer advisory against water contact at Harris Beach will remain in effect through the weekend due to elevated bacteria levels believed to come from the waste of beach birds, authorities said.
The Oregon Health Authority had hoped bacteria levels at the popular beach would drop enough that Monday's advisory could be lifted in time for Fourth of July visitors looking to beat the heat at Harris Beach State Park.
But water samples taken Monday and again today showed even higher levels of bacteria than water sampled Friday, prompting the extension, said David Farrar, a public-health toxicologist for the OHA's Beach Monitoring Program.
"That's definitely too bad," Farrar said this afternoon.
The cause likely stems from sea-bird waste and not inland runoff as originally expected, Farrar said.
Harris Creek runs through a pool where gulls and other sea birds congregate, leaving their waste in the pool, Farrar said. The creek has changed course downstream of the pool and now flows into the ocean very close to a sampling station for the beach, he said.
Members of the beach-monitoring program will be back in town Monday for another test, Farrar said.
The fecal bacteria can cause such symptoms as diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes. The most susceptible people are seniors, children and those more vulnerable to waterborne bacteria.
While the advisory against water-contact is only voluntary, it includes nearby creeks as well as any discolored water.
The Oregon Beach Monitoring Program monitors the waters along Oregon's coastline for the presence of fecal bacteria annually from Memorial Day through Labor 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.
The Harris Beach advisory is the third such advisory against water-contact posted at an Oregon beach this summer. Advisories were issued, then lifted, last month at Cannon Beach and Seaside.
— Mark Freeman