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Local creeks contaminated with fecal bacteria

Several sections of creeks in Jackson County are contaminated with fecal bacteria. File photo

Portions of Ashland Creek, Bear Creek, Walker Creek and Jackson Creek are contaminated with fecal bacteria levels that are too high for safe wading and swimming.

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments put out a warning Wednesday after routine water quality testing revealed the elevated bacteria levels.

The contamination warnings are fairly common in the summer.

Areas that exceeded state bacteria standards for human contact were on Ashland Creek below the city’s sewage treatment plant, Walker Creek at Belle Fiore Lane near Ashland, Bear Creek at Eagle Mill Road near Ashland, Bear Creek at Suncrest Road in Talent, Bear Creek at Ninth Street in Medford and Jackson Creek at Dean Creek Road in Central Point.

People in the creeks shouldn’t swallow water, which could cause illness, or allow water to touch open wounds, which could cause infection. Adults should supervise young children to make sure they don’t swallow water, RVCOG said.

Possible sources of the bacterial contamination include leaking septic systems, illegal dumping from portable toilets or RVs, as well as waste from pets, livestock or wildlife, RVCOG said.

People can help prevent contamination by picking up their pets’ waste, having their septic systems inspected and repaired if needed, putting babies and toddlers in swim diapers and keeping manure, cat litter and other waste away from creeks and storm drains, RVCOG said.

Failing septic systems and other pollutants discharged into streams should be reported to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Call the complaint hotline at 1-888-997-7888 or see oregon.gov/deq/Get-Involved/Pages/File-Pollution-Complaint.aspx.

If you are unsure of who to call or have questions regarding which creeks are tested, call Greg Stabach with RVCOG at 541-423-1370 or Amie Siedlecki with RVCOG at 541-423-1371, or visit rvcog.org/what-we-do/natural-resources/.