SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

DEC continues sampling of coastal water bacteria through September


July 15, 2018
Sunday PM

(SitNews) - The Alaska BEACH program will continued to monitor any fecal waste contamination during the 2018 recreation season at beaches along the Ketchikan coastline. Marine water samples are being collected from mid-May through mid-September to evaluate any potential health risks indicated by fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria, and to notify the public when levels exceeded state standards.

Recently, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation lifted the advisory for the beach at Ketchikan's Knudson Cove because enterococci bacteria levels were found to be within the state’s limit for safe recreation. The advisory was first initiated for Knudson Cove on May 24th.

Fecal coliform bacteria levels were above state limits protecting consumption of raw fish and shellfish at three beaches including South Point Higgins Beach, Rotary Pool and Herring Cove. Because the elevated levels have not been persistent, an advisory was not in effect for these beaches.  However, DEC recommends that when fishing in these areas people should rinse fish/marine foods with clean water and cook seafood to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy pathogens.

As part of a statewide recreational beach monitoring program, marine water samples will be collected at the listed coastal areas to evaluate enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria levels from May 17 – September 12.

Enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria can come from any warm blooded animal, including birds, seals, and dogs, as well as humans. Potential sources of this bacteria in Ketchikan may include wildlife and pet feces, human waste from private and municipal treatment systems, sewer line leakage, and/or boats in harbor areas. Contact with water impacted by enterococci or fecal coliform bacteria may cause stomach aches, diarrhea, or ear, eye, and skin infections.

The beach sampling program is in its second year, and is funded and implemented by DEC. It is part of a nationwide effort to decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act. Since 2002, the Alaska’s BEACH Program has been monitoring recreational beaches throughout the state, including other communities in southeast Alaska: Douglas Island, Haines, Juneau, Petersburg, and Wrangell. Sample results have not shown persistent elevated levels of bacteria in these communities.

All of the other locations tested in May met water quality criteria for enterococci bacteria levels. According to the DEC, fecal coliform bacteria levels at some sites were occasionally above criteria, but results were not persistent so an advisory was not issued. Samples were taken at:

  • Knudson Cove (16 miles north of Ketchikan, near Clover Pass)
  • Beacon Hill (off of North Point Higgins Road)
  • South Point Higgins Beach (on Port Higgins)
  • Shull Road (south of Whipple Creek)
  • Sunset Beach (south end of Mud Bay)
  • Refuge Cove Beach (south end of Refuge Cove Beach State Park)
  • Thomas Basin (Stedman Street Bridge, mouth of Ketchikan Creek)
  • Seaport Beach (near Saxman)
  • Rotary Beach and Rotary Pool, also known as Bugges Beach (south of Saxman)
  • Mountain Point – Surprise Beach and Cultural Foods location (near Mountain Point boat launch)
  • Herring Cove Beach (north end of Herring Cove)


On the Web:

Alaska BEACH program - Ketchikan

Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews

Source of News:

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation


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Ketchikan, Alaska

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