KETCHIKAN (KDN) —The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation plans to start the fourth bacteria monitoring season at 12 coastal beaches in Ketchikan beginning on Monday.

The Ketchikan Beach Program is part of a statewide program that will test marine water samples weekly to evaluate bacteria levels.

“The program evaluates potential health risks as indicated by fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria, and notifies the public when levels exceed state standards,” states a DEC announcement published Thursday. “Past years of bacteria monitoring have shown elevated levels of bacteria along the Ketchikan coastline from several potential sources, including private and public sewer treatment systems, individual septic tanks, wildlife, pet feces, ferries, and private and commercial vessels.”

The 2020 program is set to continue through mid-September. Ketchikan areas that will be tested include Knudson Cove, Beacon Hill, South Point Higgins Beach, the beach at Shull Road, Sunset Drive, south Refuge Cove, Thomas Basin Boat Harbor, Seaport Beach, Rotary Beach, Mountain Point Surprise Beach, Mountain Point cultural food area and Herring Cove.

Local beach-goers can stay informed on the DEC’s Ketchikan Beach Program website at https://dec.alaska.gov/water/water-quality/beach-program/ketchikan/. The website will include the dates of the samples, which beaches have elevated bacteria levels, and information on how to stay safe at the beach, according to DEC.

DEC funds and implements the BEACH sampling program under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, according the announcement. The program is part of a national effort to decrease the incidence of water-borne illness at public beaches.

 Water samples have been collected  at Ketchikan beaches by the Ketchikan Indian Community and the Southeast Watershed Coalition since 2017.