State environmental health officials are advising against swimming in five Ketchikan beaches due to elevated levels of bacteria found in tests June 10.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Gretchen Pikul said a dozen Ketchikan area beaches were tested.
“Five of them tested to have elevated levels enterococci and fecal coliform,” she said. “So those locations are Shull Road beach, Refuge Coast Beach, Thomas Basin, the Rotary Pool which is also known as Bugges Beach and that’s the concrete area, not the beach itself. And Mountain Point the Cultural Foods location.”
DEC issued a Thursday health advisory that’s in effect at least until there’s a fresh round of test results on June 20.
“We recommend that beach users avoid exposure and if they do have exposure to swimming, to wash after contact with the water, and also if you’re fishing in those areas to rinse your fish or marine foods in clean water and cook the sea food to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy the pathogens,” she said.
Six other beaches had elevated levels of fecal coliform: Knudson Cove, South Point Higgins Beach, Seaport Beach, Rotary Beach, Herring Cove Beach and Mountain Point Surprise Beach.
Cleaning and cooking any fish caught in these areas is highly recommended. Pikul said there are a number of likely sources of the bacteria strains; starting with Ketchikan’s two shoreside wastewater treatment plants.
“So those can be potential bacteria sources,” she said. “There’s also cruise ships, private watercraft and ferries, individuals’ septic tanks, private and or public treatment systems, submarine outfall strings, all along the coastline, pet feces and also wildlife”
Weekly water testing under the Alaska BEACH Grant Program is slated to continue at Ketchikan’s beaches through September. Some but not all of these beaches had similarly elevated levels of bacteria last season leading DEC to issue recreational advisories against swimming in those areas.