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COOS BAY — City officials are still advising the public to take caution when harvesting shellfish following a spate of fecal coliform bacteria tests that yielded uncharacteristically high counts.

According to two Coos Bay city press releases, Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 2 at 100 Fulton Ave. registered high counts of the bacteria on June 23 and then again last Friday.

Fecal coliform is used as indicator organisms to test the effectiveness of effluent disinfection in a wastewater treatment plant.

Public Works Director Jim Hossley noted that by Saturday the bacteria counts had returned to normal.

He said CH2M Hill — the company that operates the plant as part of public-private partnership with the city — had brought in an expert from outside the area to examine the plant.

That expert's gathered data is still being analyzed, according to city officials.

“It could have just been a lab error, because we have one way of testing, but there’s more than way to test for this... CH2M Hill has one way and North Bend has another methodology,” Hossley explained. “Sometimes we will send a sample to (North Bend) to check out.

He said the city was considering using an outside lab to test their next samples to see if the high counts were due to an error in Coos Bay’s laboratory process.

In the meantime, Hossley advised the public to exercise caution when harvesting shellfish as they normally would.

“What I’ve been telling folks and what the (Oregon Department of Agriculture) and (Coos Health and Wellness) would say: regardless if there’s a problem, there’s always background bacteria in our bay, so no matter what they should always wash their hands and thoroughly cook the food they eat from what they catch,” Hossley said. “If they follow that — no matter the concentration of extra fecal coliform — if they follow those directions there won’t be a problem.”

Coos Bay is currently constructing a new treatment plant that will replace the existing No. 2 site. 

City officials say the new plant will have greater capacity and newer wastewater technology for processing and disinfection.

Both incidents have been reported to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Coos County Health and Wellness, and Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Reporter Spencer Cole can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or by email at Follow him on Twitter: @spencerdcole.