June 18, 2008

Beachgoers Urged to Stay Out of Water

By Sherry Koonce, The Port Arthur News, Texas

Jun. 19--Visitors to McFaddin Beach or Sea Rim State Park are urged to stay out of the water because of elevated bacteria levels

Jefferson County issued a beach water advisory for the two coastal areas after samples collected by Lamar University were found to have elevated levels of the Enterococcus bacteria.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers anything above 104 colonies to be unsafe.

Ellen Cover, director of Lamar University's Texas Beachwatch Program, said the presence of Enterococcus bacteria indicates there is potential for feces in the water.

The bacteria could have resulted from farm animals' manure, marsh animals such as birds, of it could be of human origin from an unknown septic overflow.

Cover said she was more inclined to believe presence of the bacteria resulted from the combination of recent rains and outflow from the Mississippi River.

Though the local beaches are not closed at this time, Cover said people should play it safe and stay out of the water.

"A good rule of thumb is if there has a heavy rainstorm with an inch or more, stay out of the water for 24 hours," she said.

Elevated Enterococcus levels have the potential to cause respiratory problems, upset stomach, skin inflammation or swimmers ear.

It is typical to see this type elevation about twice a year, Cover said.

Lamar University is the local contractor for the Texas General Land Office, which administers the state's beachwatch program.

Results from a second beach water sample collected by Lamar will be available Thursday morning.

In addition to a county advisory, Cover urged beach goers to always look for signs posted along the beach that indicate whether unsafe bacteria levels have been detected.

Contact this reporter at [email protected]


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