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Stay out of the water

Whether the culprits are the resident geese and ducks, dogs, toddlers with leaky diapers, or all of the above, in the first week of summer high E. coli bacteria levels prompted the closure of a couple of area beaches.

Samples taken June 20 and 21 at Island Lake County Park showed E. coli contamination and the no-swimming signs went up last Thursday.

Friday the northern swimming beach at the Lutherhaven site on Wildcat Lake succumbed to an E. coli-related closure as well. This second closure only affects a private camp site, not the swimming area at Wildcat Lake County Park.

The heightened presence of E. coli bacteria was no surprise to John Kiess, an environmental health specialist with the Kitsap County Health District. With temperatures rising, pets, children and wildlife tend to frequent the water holes.

“In beaches where there’s a lot of sediment, bacteria can survive there,” Kiess said.

When the weather warms up and people get in the water, they simply stir up the dormant E. coli.

“There’s a lot more people in the water (in the summer), so exposure can be an issue,” Kiess added.

Between May and September, the majority of the county’s 17 lakes and 28 swimming beaches are sampled for contamination once every two weeks. There are a few monitored weekly, because they have proven to be more vulnerable — Island Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Kitsap Lake and Long Lake.

In Island Lake’s case, the way the beach is shaped creates a bathtub effect, Kiess said. That results in poor circulation and makes the waters more susceptible to contamination and slower to filter through once bacteria settles in.

The health district checked the Lutherhaven and Island Lake beaches Monday and staff planned to re-test the sites again today. If the results from both sets of samples are clean, both beaches may be reopened tomorrow at the earliest.

“Hopefully we’ll get to reopen (them) especially with this warm weather,” Kiess said Monday as temperatures climbed into the 80s and kids were already on summer break.

While the beach closure signs remain posted, the public should avoid all contact with the water in that area. The risk for getting sick is greatest for young children, the elderly, or anyone with a compromised immune system.

The health district advises the public to report cases of swimmer’s itch or other waterborne illnesses, or algae blooms in lakes so that other people can be warned in advance of entering the water in the affected areas.

To make a report, call the health district at (360) 337-5235, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In extreme cases of waterborne illness, or if an immediate response is otherwise needed after hours, call 911.

Up to date information on beach closures and other information is available by calling the health district’s 1-800-2BE-WELL hotline or online at www.kitsapcountyhealth.com, click on Water Quality & Shellfish, under Environmental Health.

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