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COOS BAY — Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 1 reported a high count of fecal coliform bacteria Thursday, Feb. 14.

In a press release from the city of Coos Bay, the levels weren’t discovered until Friday morning, Feb. 15 “because the test takes 24 hours to yield results.”

“Fecal Coliform are used as indicator organisms to test the effectiveness of effluent disinfection in a Wastewater Treatment Plant,” the release explained. “While these organisms are generally harmless to us, they do live under the same conditions that human pathogens live. Since we cannot test for every pathogen in the effluent, we test for easily detectable indicator organisms. The assumption is that if we kill the indicator organisms then we most likely kill the pathogens during effluent disinfection.”

The high levels could result in a permit violation. As the release pointed out, the plant is required to meet water quality limits set by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the plant only has monthly fecal limits, not daily.

“However, the city has elected to report this issue on a voluntary basis so that the public is informed and aware of the issue,” the release said. “The city reported this issue to the Oregon Emergency Response System and DEQ.”

As of Friday, it was unknown what caused the high fecal count but remains under investigation.

“Because of the potential of endangering human health and the environment, this situation was reported to Department of Environmental Quality,” the release reiterated.

For more information, call the Coos Bay Public Works Department at 541-269-8918.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.