Guam EPA advises residents to avoid stormwater; 44 beaches under advisory this weekend

31 July 2014

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency (Guam EPA) today announced the weekly beach advisory will include all 44 beaches due to the large amount of rain received from Tropical Storm Halong.

Stormwater runoff may contain additional bacteria and cause many beaches to have high concentrations of unsafe bacteria. Guam EPA staff typically sample 44 beaches every week to test for the presence of bacteria. This week, staff will not be gathering samples due to the extreme weather conditions and high surf. Guam EPA staff conducted visual inspections at many of the beaches and recommended all 44 sites be placed under advisory due to the large amount of stormwater washing into the ocean. Specific beaches to avoid include those in Inarajan Bay, Agat, Toguan Bay and Dungca’s beach in Tamuning. Normal sampling will resume next week.

“Safety for our staff and for the community are our main concerns,” said Eric M. Palacios, administrator of Guam EPA. “We are encouraging everyone to find other activities to do this weekend and avoid the beach due to the large amount of stormwater. We are also asking people to avoid driving and walking through standing water. These waters can also contain potentially dangerous levels of bacteria. Play it safe and stay dry.”

According to reports from the Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA), the sewage lagoon at the Umatac/Merizo Wastewater Treatment Plant is using the bypass into the Toguan River. The report noted the bypass was being used due to the large amount of stormwater created by the current weather conditions. Other areas, according to GWA, with sewage and manhole issues include Inarajan, Agat and Merzio.

Residents are also advised to avoid streams, rivers, standing pools of water and ponding basins. These areas can have higher concentrations of bacteria and water that may be deeper than it initially appears. Many ponding basins are slowly draining and the Agency estimates they will return to normal levels within a few days.

Swimming, fishing or playing in unsafe beach or standing water may result in minor illnesses such as sore throats or diarrhea. It might also result in more serious illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis, or severe gastroenteritis. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of getting sick when they come in contact with contaminated water.

For more information about the advisory or to arrange an interview contact Guam EPA’s Public Information Officer Tammy Jo Anderson Taft at 300-4761, 988-7582 or email at TammyJoAnderson.Taft@epa.guam.gov.