Two beaches in Russian River area reported unsafe
High bacteria counts bring swim warnings
by Frank Robertson
Sonoma West Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 2:48 PM PDT
GUERNEVILLE – Russian River bacteria counts have been coming up
higher than normal this summer at some River beaches that are being
routinely tested to see if germ levels pose health hazards.
Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville and the Monte Rio public beach were
both posted as “unsafe for swimming” last week by Sonoma County
Environmental Health officials who monitor the Russian River.
With the big July 4 weekend arriving operators at both beaches hope
new tests this week will show bacteria counts low enough to remove
the optional county health department warnings.
State health guidelines recommend but do not require beaches to be
posted with warnings when “indicator organisms” exceed the following
*10,000 per 100 milliliters (ml) for total coliform;
*235 per 100 ml for e. coli, and
*61 per 100 ml for enterococcus.
Routine bacteria tests in the month of June showed continuously
elevated enterococcus counts at Johnson’s Beach, but the most recent
test (June 26) showed the germ count had dropped back to what
environmental health officials consider safe.
“Warning, swimming not advised,” said the signs posted in English and
Spanish last week at Johnson’s. “Bacteria levels at this beach have
exceeded recommended state of California guidelines for fresh water
bathing,” said the warnings posted by Sonoma County Public Health
Officer Mary Maddux-Gonzalez of the Sonoma County Department of
Swim warnings remained posted this week in front of the Monte Rio
Beach kiddie area where enterococcus counts were too high four times
Monte Rio e. coli counts were also high enough in June to warrant
posting warnings, according to the county Web site where the test
results are posted.
During the summer public health officials take routine weekly tests
at six public beaches from Healdsburg to Monte Rio, including Camp
Rose Beach, Healdsburg Memorial Beach, Steelhead Beach and
Forestville Access Beach (also known as Mom’s Beach).
This summer bacteria levels are also being examined at additional
sites, including the Russian River near Cloverdale, Cloverdale River
Park, the Geyserville Highway 128 bridge, the Alexander Valley Road
bridge, and at Sunset Beach on River Road.
“In 41 years we’ve never been posted,” said Johnson’s Beach owner
Clare Harris last week as families filed in for a day on the beach
and mothers and children waded in the cool green River.