Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fecal Matters: Heavy rainfall can increase health risks for surfers, divers, and other beachgoers

Illustration of Washington beach program moniker. Foot prints and starfish are in the foreground and an illustration of watery sand is in the background.We had a great summer for water sports enthusiasts, but as we transition into the rainy season, surfers, divers, and other winter beachgoers should be aware of potential rising bacteria levels at their favorite beaches. After heavy rainfall, bacteria levels in beach water could rise.

What causes bacteria levels to rise?

Water runoff from heavy rain drains into nearby lakes, rivers, and saltwater beaches. This runoff can carry unsafe levels of fecal bacteria to water bodies from sewage system overflows and animal waste.

Don’t be scared, be aware!

Anyone who comes in contact with winter ocean water should be aware of the potential health risks associated with heavy rain. This includes the following types of beachgoers:
Storm drain pipe protruding from a retaining wall at the beach. The wall is made of boulders. The pipe was water spewing from it onto the beach.
Keep an eye out for pipes or streams that
drain directly to the beach.
  • Surfers
  • Divers
  • Kayakers
  • Paddle boarders
  • Boaters
  • Walkers
  • Dog walkers
  • Seashell collectors
  • Sand castle builders
Contact with fecal-contaminated water, shells, or sand can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses. 

Protect yourself and others

It’s easy to prevent these illnesses. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you and your family stay healthy this winter:
  • Avoid contact with fresh or marine water after a heavy rain.
  • Avoid water recreation for 24 hours after heavy rainfall.
  • Be aware of areas with pipes or streams that drain directly to the beach. 
  • Pick up pet waste.
  • Watch your dog at the beach; make sure they don’t drink the water.
  • Remember to wash your hands before eating or preparing food, especially after a trip to the beach.
For more information about the water quality at your beaches, follow our blog, Facebook page, or LISTSERV.

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