Health Warning at Point Whitney and Irondale Beaches Due to Bacteria

Contact: Michael Dawson, Water Quality Manager Jefferson County Public Health

360-385-9444 x301

Port Townsend – High levels of fecal bacteria at Point Whitney beach in Brinnon, and Irondale beach in Port Hadlock have prompted Jefferson County Public Health to issue a health warning. Children, the elderly, and those in ill health are advised not to swim. Shellfishing is also not advised.

Warning signs have been posted at public access points. Water samples taken Tuesday, June 29, and analyzed for enterococcus (a type of fecal bacteria) averaged over 600 per 100 milliliters of water at Point Whitney. The Washington BEACH program advisory level is 104. By Thursday July 1, the average had climbed to over 800. Irondale beach bacteria levels were 105 on June 29, and 276 on July 1. The cause of the high bacteria levels is under investigation.

Fecal bacteria are indicators of pathogens that can make people sick. Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses. Shellfish, being filter feeders, can concentrate contaminants from the water into their tissues.

Jefferson County Public Health monitors local saltwater swimming beaches weekly from Memorial Day through Labor Day as part of the Washington BEACH program. Jefferson county beaches will be re-sampled, and if bacteria levels decline, signage at the beach will be changed as appropriate. For questions about this and other Jefferson County beaches you can call 360-385-9444 or visit our website at jeffersoncountypublichealth.org. To find out about conditions at monitored beaches throughout Washington, see the Ecology Coastal Atlas at fortress.wa.gov/ecy/coastalatlas. For more information about the BEACH program see doh.wa.gov, ecology.wa.gov, and epa.gov/beaches.