Tips to do your part on beaches with elevated bacteria

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - There have been several beach advisories issued in the past two months for areas in the Kenai Peninsula and Ketchikan due to the elevated levels of bacteria.

Officials with the Alaska Department of Conservation said that recreational users do not have to avoid these beaches as long as they take the proper precautions while enjoying the coastal regions.

“They should avoid the water if they do have contact with the marine water they should wash afterward, take a shower, wash hands before eating,” said Gretchen Pikul, an environmental program specialist with the Division of Water. “If they are using the right precautions there should be no illnesses.”

Elevated levels of fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria prompt advisories to be issued. As of July 19, advisories were out for Kenai North and South beaches as well as seven Ketchikan beaches.

DEC reminds the public that on top of taking precautions to protect themselves, they can also take steps to preserve the environment.

“Cut up and throw the fish carcasses into the main part of the river, or put it into the dumpster as you leave the beach,” Pikul said. “The gulls come over and feed off the carcasses that are on the beach. They leave feces on the beach.”

Pikul also stresses cleaning up after pets and making sure to use portable restrooms at the beach.

Fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria are found in the intestinal tracks of warmblooded animals, including birds, humans, dogs, and seals.

“The enterococci, which is an indicator of a disease-causing bacteria that may be present, causes stomachaches, and diarrhea or ear and eye and skin infections,” said Pikul.

The advisories are issued after DEC monitoring efforts assess water quality. To check advisories and water quality, visit the DEC website.

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