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Monte Rio Beach will remain closed to swimming for at least one more day as public officials continue to pursue the reason for elevated lab tests that indicate contamination of the water with harmful bacteria, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services reported Monday.

The decision to keep beach-goers out of that stretch of the Russian River through at least Tuesday extends the ongoing beach closure to a fifth day, though officials have yet to confirm or pinpoint any specific hazard or source of pollution.

But state guidelines governing water quality required the closure last week because of test results above the state-allowed threshold for two indicator bacteria considered markers for possible fecal contamination. The beach status is now considered day-to-day.

The latest round of testing put total coliform bacteria at 11,199 organisms per 100 milliliters of sampled water collected off the beach Sunday, Deputy County Health Officer Karen Holbrook said. The state standard is 10,000 organisms per 100 ml.

E. coli was measured at 149 organisms per 100 milliliters in samples taken Sunday. The state standard is 235 per 100 ml.

E. coli levels dropped below the safety threshold July 6 and appear to have stayed there, though they remain above the two-digit numbers typical of routine testing at 10 Russian River beaches conducted by the county.

The highest test result in the past week put the E. coli level at 833 organisms per 100 ml. or almost four times the state standard, possibly as a result of huge crowds at the beach over the July Fourth weekend.

Human beings, even those with good hygiene, normally shed small amounts of fecal bacteria, which can cause test levels to spike when large numbers of people are present, said Alydda Manglesdorf, a senior environmental scientist with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

She added that total coliform — the bacterial marker that has remained high — is not as good a metric for human fecal contamination as E. coli, which has declined in concentrations at Monte Rio.

Total coliform bacteria is common in the world at large, in soil or in vegetation, even, and doesn’t prove the fecal coliform is present.

“When the E. coli comes down and the total coliform remains up, that’s less” of a concern, Holbrook said. “It may be that it’s sediment that’s stirred up from the bottom that isn’t necessarily a fecal release.”

But because there are other possibilities, the county has been working with partner agencies and stakeholders to better understand what is going on, she said.

Two representatives from the county planning and environmental health departments were out on the river in kayaks on Monday, for instance, sampling the water up- and down-stream of Monte Rio Beach and looking for any obvious problems.

Inquiries and inspections have been made about septic tanks, porta-potty operations and homeless encampments as well, in an effort to narrow down the cause, she said.

“It could be that there is an ongoing release or leak that we haven’t identified, and that could come from a variety of sources: bodies out in the water with diaper accidents, or a porta-potty that’s been tipped over that’s still leaking, or a septic system, or animals that are near the water.”

Thus, until further notice, the beach is closed to swimming, wading, tubing and any other activity that would put beach-goers in direct contact with the water.

Steve Baxman, chairman of the Russian River Recreation & Park District, which runs Monte Rio Beach, said it’s been frustrating for the district to lose out on summer visitors, though some people have continued to use the beach and even get into the water despite warnings not to do so.

He said he believed the ongoing closure at the mouth of the Russian River and resulting backup of river water may have something to do with continued high test results.

Waves often create a sandbar across the Russian River and, he said, once it opens, the river will be flushed out.

But Baxman, who is also the local fire chief, said he found it odd that Monte Rio Beach has so far been the only one affected, though total coliform levels at nearby Patterson Point last week did spike to 8,164 organisms per 100 ml. of water. Patterson Point is about one mile downstream of Monte Rio Beach.

Holbrook said she and her staff are eager to see the results from the regular weekly samples collected at 10 Russian River beaches, from Cloverdale on downstream to Patterson Point in Villa Grande. Those test results should all be available Tuesday afternoon.

Updates on the status of the beach are available at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Environmental-Health/Water-Quality/Fresh-Water-Quality/.

Information about Russian River beaches, in English and Spanish, also is available by calling the Sonoma County Beach Hotline (707) 565-6552.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

New test results expected this afternoon will determine if Sonoma County health officials can safely reopen Monte Rio Beach.

But until further notice, the beach remains closed to swimming, wading, tubing and other activity that would put beach-goers in direct contact with the water.

The publicly owned beach has been closed since Thursday, when two rounds of water testing detected elevated levels of total coliform and E. coli bacteria — markers that indicate the possible presence of human or mammal feces, thought the testing is not refined enough to determine exact sources, health officials said.

Bacteria levels peaked in water samples taken Wednesday, in the wake of what appeared to be record July Fourth crowds. The busy Independence Day weekend included fireworks and the annual Big Rocky Games, a two-day event that draws hundreds of revelers and may, in some way, have led to contamination.

The Wednesday samples showed total coliform at 11,199 organisms per 100 milliliters of water, compared to a state standard of 10,000 per 100 ml., the county health department said.

E. Coli measured 833 organisms per 100 ml. The state threshold is 235.

Samples taken at the river on Thursday showed bacterial levels had declined to 10,462 total coliform organisms per 100 ml — very close to the state standard, but still too high to warrant reopening the water when the results became available Friday, health officials said.

E. coli levels had dropped to 110 organisms, which is safely within the accepted levels.

The results from additional samples collected Sunday are due back today, department spokesman Scott Alonso said.

The Monte Rio Beach is run by the Russian River Recreation & Parks District.

Updates on the status of the beach are available at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Environmental-Health/Water-Quality/Fresh-Water-Quality/.

Information about Russian River beaches, in English and Spanish, also is available by calling the Sonoma County Beach Hotline (707) 565-6552.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.