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Avoid swimming at Mill and Harris beaches

Sporthaven Beach is also among those in which Fourth of July partiers can go swimming, as beachcombers are discouraged from swimming at Mill and Harris beaches in Brookings due to bacterial contamination.

Visitors to those two beaches can still enjoy the sandy stretches and tidepools, but should avoid the surf and water coming into the ocean from creeks, as recent state tests indicated the presence of E. coli bacteria. The uptick in the bacterium is common after rainstorms, which the area experienced for three days last week.

Fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an international environmental protection nonprofit, noted that those two beaches are generally clean and safe, and contaminations usually originate from upstream sources that stormwater flushes to the sea — and even from seabirds that congregate in pools at the beach.

“Visitors should expect to leave the beach sandy and smiling — not feeling ill,” the organization noted this week, the advent of the summer season for most American beaches.

Its annual report indicated that in 2013, 11 percent of 19 samples taken from Mill Beach throughout the summer months had bacteria levels higher than acceptable; 25 percent of Harris Beach’s 32 samples — eight — were not acceptable.

Last week, state public health advisors issued warnings for the two beaches. Contact with contaminated water, particularly by the elderly and children, should be avoided.

Signs posted at those two beaches warning beachcombers about the water and creeks that should be avoided until the ban is lifted.

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