Sign warning beach users of potential for E. Coli posted at Waterfront Park Beach on August 14, 2014
Update to print story: City Public Works director Mark Lago called Hood River News at 4 p.m. Friday to say that Thursday’s E. Coli alert on Waterfront Beach has been lifted, following latest tests by Riverkeeper.
“The beach is open again,” he said.
This weekend, you might think twice about going into the water at Hood River Waterfront Park Beach. On Thursday, Hood River County Health Department officials announced dangerously high levels of the harmful E. coli bacteria at the park beach, based on water sampling done Aug. 12-13 at the beach.
Health officials urge people who frequent the park to use caution if entering the water, stated a release from the Health Department issued Thursday afternoon.
Children, the elderly, and people with immune deficiencies are most at risk for illnesses after exposure to contaminated water. This advisory is for Waterfront Park beach only, no other sites tested, including the Event Site, are affected. Water quality at the Event Site and the outer Hook meet water quality standards at this time. Barring a drastic change in the situation based on the Aug. 14 testing, the E.coli alert will remain in effect through the weekend, according to Health Department supervisor Mike Matthews.
That testing was done at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, but results will not be available until after 2:30 p.m. Friday, too late for press time. Emily Long, water quality assistant with Riverkeeper, said the determination to sample on Friday will be based on what is found Thursday and on staff availability. The next scheduled testing is Monday. According to Matthews, calm winds and warm temperatures have contributed to unusually high bacteriological activity in the Columbia River at Waterfront Park Beach. E. coli is naturally found in the intestines of warmblooded animals, but its presence in the river indicates fecal contamination and is linked to diarrhea, fever, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and even prolonged illnesses such as typhoid and dysentery.
Contaminated waters pose the greatest risk to children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The Beach at Waterfront Park has been posted and this advisory will stay in effect until water quality returns to safer levels. The advisory is for the Waterfront Park Beach only; no other sites tested including the Event Site are affected at this time. “We need the wind to come up and stir up the water,” for any change in conditions, Matthews said, adding that there is a “high probability” the advisory will remain through the weekend. Riverkeeper notified the City, Port and Local Health Department on Aug. 13 that testing showed dangerous levels of E. coli bacteria in the water at the Waterfront Park Beach.
Results from the Beach indicate fecal bacteria contamination, according to Matthews. At the request of the Health Department, city employees posted warning signs at the site on Thursday afternoon. Long said the samples are normally taken at the east and west edges of the beach, just inside the rope separating the beach from the river. “Today (Thursday) we did it a little differently,” Long said. “I went downstream and upstream to see if those same high results aren’t likely to be repeated.”
Long said she went about 15 yards out in the river, in knee-deep water as dictated by DEQ standards, “to get a different perspective on what could be potentially affecting the area.” Columbia Riverkeeper conducts weekly monitoring for bacterial contamination at five popular recreation sites in the Columbia Gorge. It does so in part to support the City of Hood River in monitoring the effectiveness of its wastewater treatment plant (as requested by DEQ), located west of the Waterfront Park Beach, upland from the river. Water samples are collected weekly from the Hood River at Tucker Bridge, and from the Columbia at the Waterfront Park Beach, the Event Site, the outer Hook and the inner Hook.