Russian River has elevated levels of coliform and E. coli bacteria; Monte Rio beach closed

By on July 10, 2017
Sewage Leak Closes Southern California Beaches

As of July 6, Monte Rio beach along the Russian River has been closed due to bacterial levels testing result which have shown elevated levels of both coliform and E. coli (Escherichia coli). The Sonoma County Department of Health Services, in accordance with the state Department of Health Services (DHS) guidelines posted ‘warning-closure’ signs at Monte Rio beach advising the public of “no swimming, wading or water contact” at the beach location.

DHS conducted two rounds of testing earlier this week. On July 3, test results for total coliform was 10,462 organisms per 100 ml and E. coli results was 41 organisms per 100 ml. Additional samples were collected on July 5. The follow-up tests found that total coliform was 11,199 and E. coli was 833. State guidelines and DHS protocol specify that any level above 10,000 organisms per 100 ml for total coliform or 235 organisms per 100 ml for E. coli require posting of signage.

Coliforms are bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts and feces of warm-blooded animals, including humans and animals, and therefore indicate possible contamination of water by fecal waste. Coliform bacteria in drinking water may indicate a possible presence of harmful, disease-causing organisms.

The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in aquatic environments indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of warm-blooded mammals. Fecal coliform bacteria can enter rivers through direct discharge of waste from mammals and birds, from agricultural and storm runoff, and from untreated human sewage. Another source — individual home septic tanks — can become overloaded during the rainy season and allow untreated human wastes to flow into drainage ditches and nearby waters.

Given the crowds at Monte Rio beach on the recent 4th of July holiday, health officials concede the increased bacteria levels could simply be the number of bodies in the water. Monte Rio Recreation and Park District Chairman Steve Baxman acknowledged as such saying, “Tuesday we had the biggest crowd we’ve ever had. It was unreal.”

“I’m hopeful that this was a blip based on all of the bodies that were out in the water at Monte Rio Beach over the weekend and on the Fourth,” said Dr. Karen Holbrook, the county’s deputy public health officer, “and we timed our testing perfectly to capture that — that given a little time, that’s going to dissipate.”

In the meantime, DHS recommends the following:

  • Do not swim at the Monte Rio beach until further notice from authorities
  • Do not drink river water. Do not cook or wash dishes with river water
  • Wash yourself and your family, including any pets, with clean water after playing in any river
  • Bring fresh water for your dog and do not let them drink river water
  • If you have concerns regarding your family or pet’s health, contact your healthcare provider or veterinarian.

For additional information regarding the status of the Russian River, call the recorded beach hotline at 707-565-6552 or visit DHS’ website at: