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Excessive bacteria found in Southern Oregon creeks

Trash and clothing litter a northern Medford section of Bear Creek close to the Greenway in in this file photo. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune

Locals should be careful when swimming, wading or otherwise making contact with water in certain parts of the Bear Creek Basin after tests showed levels of bacteria that exceed state standards in Medford and Central Point.

An Aug. 19 sample taken from Bear Creek on Ninth Street near Hawthorne Park in Medford exceeded state water quality standards for bacteria, including E. coli, according to a release issued by Rogue Valley Council of Governments Thursday.

High levels of bacteria were also found in Griffin Creek near Beall Lane, and in two places in Central Point in the areas of West Ross Lane and Dean Creek Road.

In those areas, RVCOG Natural Resources Water Quality Technician Amie Siedlecki recommends that people use caution when in the waterways — particularly if they have open wounds. Ingesting the water may cause illness.

Very young children should be fully supervised when playing in the water to ensure they don’t drink any of the water.

The possible causes of the E. coli results — found during routine water quality tests — could include leaking septic systems, illegal dumping from portable toilets or RVs, pet and livestock waste and “any other activity that results in the discharge of fecal matter directly into creeks or through storm drains,” according to the release. Wildlife also contributes to the bacteria levels.

Siedlecki recommends that locals pick up after their pets, keep manure, kitty litter and other pet waste material away from creeks and storm drains, that septic systems are inspected and kept in good working order, and that toddlers wear swim diapers when playing in the waterway.

To report a failing septic system or other pollutants into streams, call the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality complaint hotline at 1-888-997-7888 or online at deq.state.or.us/complaints/rep.htm.

For questions about a specific creek, contact RVCOG Natural Resources manager Greg Stabach at 541-423-1371.