by: David Ham Updated:Tacoma, Wash. —
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department closed the beaches at Dash Point Park and Pier in Tacoma to swimmers and waders because of high levels of fecal contamination. Bacteria levels at the park on Wednesday were 10 times higher than when health officials normally close beaches.
"We don't know the cause of the high bacteria counts, but it may have been from a sewage spill, one or more failing septic systems in close proximity, or a boater dumping untreated wastewater," said Ray Hanowell, environmental health specialist. Two signs were posted near at the park but many beach-goers didn't see them. "I think it's disgusting and they should have put like more signs because we were about to go in," said Jessica Johnson.
Swimmers and waders who come in contact with the problem could suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The pier at the park is popular for salmon fishers. "I'm hoping it's not affecting the fish. I mean, a lot of people eat the fish out here they catch a lot," said Robert Jennings, who fishes for salmon at the pier almost every day. Health officials said fishing is OK as long as all of the equipment is thoroughly cleaned and the fish are cleaned and cooked. It's also okay for fishermen with waders on and boaters to be in the water.
The Health Department said it will keep testing the water until it's safe for swimmers and waders again. "It could be we'd be able to lift in just a day or two or it could be a lot longer," said Hanowell.