From the Health Dept.:
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Environmental Health Division is notifying recreational users of Mad River, Clam, Luffenholtz and Trinidad Beaches to avoid contact with ocean water near the river or creeks on these beaches. Due to high bacterial levels in the water, DHHS has posted yellow signs warning surfers and swimmers to stay at least 50 yards away from the mouth or opening of the Mad River at Clam and Mad River Beaches, Strawberry Creek at Clam Beach, Luffenholtz Creek at Luffenholtz Beach and Mill Creek at Trinidad Beach. The signs also advise people to not wade or swim in these waterways. Water quality testing indicates that state health standards for coliform bacteria were exceeded at these beaches.
Coliform bacteria are considered “indicator” bacteria whose presence often is associated with that of disease-causing bugs. These indicator species do not usually cause illness in swimmers. However, high levels of coliform mean that the water may be contaminated with other pathogens that can make people sick. Small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.
DHHS is currently retesting the water at the four beaches. The warning signs will be removed as soon as results show that state water quality standards have been met.
Tuesday’s heavy rainfall was typical of the kind of weather that often results in contamination of waterways throughout the state. Any contaminants or substances that have been building up on the landscape or roads during dry periods, such as pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, animal or human waste, oil, gasoline, and litter can be washed into water bodies and carried downstream to the ocean.
As a routine precaution, DHHS recommends that people not swim or surf in creeks, rivers or within 100 yards of any river or creek mouth for at least three days after a rainstorm.
We all can take steps to help prevent pollutants from entering our waterways during storms. These include reducing storm runoff (e.g., by minimizing paved surfaces, planting native vegetation, and catching rain water for irrigation), maintaining septic systems, keeping grazing animals away from rivers and streams, properly disposing of pet waste, fixing car leaks, recycling used motor oil, and minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use are some recommended measures.
Weekly water quality data for the beaches monitored by the Environmental Health Division is posted on the Humboldt County website at: http://www.co.humboldt.ca.us/health/envhealth/beachinfo. The website also has more detail on pollution prevention measures, and a complete record of water quality data for the beach monitoring program. For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division at 707-445-6215.