Bacteria plague parts of Bear, Neil creeks

Elevated bacteria levels in portions of Bear Creek and Neil Creek near Ashland are prompting health officials to warn people against water contact there in an ongoing problem likely exacerbated by drought.

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments Thursday issued the advisories for Neil Creek east of Ashland as well as the stretch of Bear Creek between Lynn Newbry Park in Talent and Fern Valley Road near Phoenix.

Bear Creek from its confluence with Griffin Creek to the mouth of Jackson Creek near Central Point also falls under the advisory. Such advisories are somewhat typical during hot, low-flow periods within the Bear Creek Basin, usually in late summer.

"We're seeing water-quality conditions that are poorer earlier than typical, something we normally don't see until June," says Greg Stabach, RVCOG's natural resources program coordinator. "Part of it has to do with the drought conditions."

Routine water quality testing in these reaches showed bacteria levels exceeded state standards for human contact such as swimming or wading, according to RVCOG. No exact causes of the elevated bacteria levels were known, but they can range from animal and human waste to leaky septic systems.

The creek water should not be ingested or allowed to contact open wounds as it could cause illness or infections, according to RVCOG.

The streams are not closed to public access and cooperation is voluntary, Stabach says.

Ashland Creek and Griffin Creek were tested and their water quality passed muster for wading at this time, Stabach says.

The Ashland-based Rogue Riverkeeper organization next week plans to do its regular water-quality testing for bacteria at popular recreation places such as the Rogue River at Gold Hill and Grants Pass, the Applegate River at Cantrall-Buckley Park as well as portions of the Illinois River and Lost Creek Lake, says the Rogue Riverkeepers' Forrest English.

They also will continue monitoring Ashland, Emigrant and Little Butte creeks, English says.

The organization posts its results on its webpage at www.rogueriverkeeper.org.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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