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High bacteria levels found at Waterfront Park

Kitsap County Health Department personnel as part of a Department of Ecology water quality testing program found unusually high levels of bacteria Tuesday at the beach of Eagle Harbor's Waterfront Park.

The beach will remain open while the area is re-sampled Thursday, according to a Department of Ecology press release. Officials will obtain the results of a second sample Friday, and should the re-sample remain high the area could be closed.

Jessica Archer, manager of DOE's Beach Environment Assessment Communication and Health Program, said the most likely cause is a dirty diaper and some trash found on the beach when the samples were taken. This may not seem like much, she said, but it makes a big difference.

"It's easy for folks to think it's just one diaper and it can't impact the beach," she said. "Those kinds of small things can impact the water and the beach."

The samples shows the presence of enterococcus bacteria, an indicator of the possible presence of pathogens.

"It indicates there is sewage from a warm-blooded animal," Archer said. "When sewage is present we know there could be lots of pathogens that could make people sick. "

Archer said a normal beach may see as many as 20 or 30 as the Most Probable Number per 100 milliliters. One of the sections tested out at 74, while another, the one most affected by the litter was at 2235. The Environmental Protection Agency threshold for closing a beach is 104.

The beach has never been closed for this reason, Archer said. Once in 2009 and 2007 bacteria levels were high enough that an advisory was warranted.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

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