‘Cutting Edge Technology’ Indicates That Bird Fecal Matter ‘Likely Culprit’ in Clam Beach’s Failing Report Card

Press release from the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services:

Development of a new test has given the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services’ (DHHS) Public Health Laboratory the ability to better identify the specific sources of fecal contamination found in water samples.

Public Health Laboratory Manager Jeremy Corrigan said bacteria in fecal matter varies depending on where it comes from, and the Microbial Source Tracking (MST) test he has been working on for the past few years will make it possible to better pinpoint the source.

Microbial Source Tracking is a new molecular DNA-based tool to help identify the potential sources of fecal pollution in recreational waters,” Corrigan said. “Although not a magic bullet, this technology provides depth to our current beach monitoring techniques and should ultimately give us a better understanding of Humboldt waterways.”

For the past three years, staff from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) and DHHS’s Division of Environmental Health have been collecting samples from various beaches and waterways in preparation to test.

Corrigan said the partnership with the NCRWQCB has given Public Health the ability to develop and use “cutting edge technology” to help identify the contamination’s source.

Clam Beach County Park in McKinleyville, one of the locations regularly sampled, continues to be toward the top of the Heal the Bay Beach Bummer Report Card which assigns an A-to-F water quality grade to more than 400 beaches across the state based on levels of coliform bacteria. Corrigan said so far the MST test results point to bacteria from bird fecal matter as the likely culprit.

He said while results will vary depending on where the samples are taken from, this information highlights some of the sources of contamination. “My hope is that we can show our community that some of this is just naturally occurring.”



  • It’s past time for a bird ban.

  • Sponsored by landowners who have crappy septics polluting our beaches or what?????

    How can the county waste our money on this when the state and folks testing the beaches have said over and over for years that its from septics leaking?
    Bird poop???? Are you even serious? All our waterways would be “polluted” if that were the case.

  • I’m glad birds don’t crap on any of the other beaches.

      • do you know why Larapin’s has an expensive and awesome waste water treatment system? this whole thing is a joke that Baykeepers created to extort, it seems they had plan to extort everyone but the actual source, which has already been determined 3 decades ago to be the septic system in Trinidad and Westhaven. the shit literally pops out of the hill at the intersection with bedrock and in the creeks. but this bird thing could count as a bigger joke.

        • That’s a bit far from Clam Beach to be causing continuous bad grades year to year. Why not Moonstone if it were that?

  • Snowy plovers aren’t so cool now huh hippys

  • In my 1911 I trust

    I had no idea bird crap smelled like a draining septic tank….

  • This story sounds so Trumpian. Lie to them, they are too stupid to know.

  • I’ve always found it rather surprising they could blame septic tanks in an area with an extremely low density of septic systems…

  • The six million dog poops in the area may help the cause.

  • I thought it was decided it was from pollution from that stream draining into the ocean from green diamond property uphill

  • Ok, so let just grant as a hypothetical that the majority of the bacteria is from bird shit. We should still stop any septic systems from leaching into the ocean, right?

    • Logic alert! 🙂

      Same goes for dog crap and livestock runoff.

      • Or frankly human deposits. Those happen on the beach a lot. The crowds walk towards Moonshine and the Little River from Strawberry Creek. The rest rooms are at the County Parking lot. There has never been a line at the toilets no matter how many are at the beach.

    • do you own a septic tank? the end result of this will be signage on the beach. septic tank effluent is intended to leach and disperse in a leachfield. this is a result of poor planning. baykeepers can only extort businesses which is why they are focused on Clam beach inn and the little river, but the source has long been determined to be the septic tanks located in terrace marine deposits (Trinidad and Westhaven). septic tanks don’t treat they just separate the solids. the leachfield is what is intended to treat the fecal coliform in the effluent.

      • There really aren’t that many septic systems capable of draining into that area. You need a failed system directly adjacent to a flowing creek in saturated soil. Effluent is treated as it flows through soil, largely in a bacterial mat around the leach field ,but also in any consolidated formation it travels through. If you’re not near a creek, the bacteria won’t make it. If your leach field hasn’t failed, even if you’re near a creek, the effluent will move slowly enough bacteria won’t make it. If your soil isn’t saturated, effluent tends to go down, not sideways, being quickly treated.

        And even if you ignore these requirements, there’s just not much population density near clam beach. Trinidad is the only dense area, and there’s not enough water movement for anything but the worst failed systems (those causing surface runoff) to make it to the beach. Westhaven, Moonstone, Crannell, and Dows Prairie are all pretty sparsely populated, and there’s nothing but logging inland of them. And most of those areas are well above sea level with relatively well-draining soil, not the conditions that lead to failed systems.

        Freshwater creek and slough came in with relatively low fecal coliform numbers, despite running through pretty much ideal locations for failed septic systems. Rather than being up in the hills in relatively dry soil, that area has lots of houses barely a couple feet above sea level, in saturated old mud, with tons of creeks and drainage channels. It’s, in fact, one of the worst areas for failed septic systems, so much that the state of california has identified it as such. And then Ryan’s slough, with virtually no houses along it to have failed septic systems, came in pretty high.

        So, it really doesn’t surprise me that there’s new evidence that it’s not septic systems causing the issue. The correlation just isn’t there.

        Now, if there’s specific failed systems – I have no idea about the digger, but they are capable of generating large amounts of effluent and they’re right against the creek – they should certainly be fixed. But I wouldn’t start a witch hunt over it.

        The best thing the county could do would be to stop pretending mound systems are experimental systems and punishing anyone who tries installing one, resulting in people using traditional leach fields where inappropriate, repeatedly patching failing systems, and generally doing anything to avoid putting in a mound system, entirely because the county makes it a nightmare to have one. They’re well-established, widely used around the country, and no one else calls them experimental and places a huge list of restrictions and fees on them, but Humboldt doesn’t like them.

        • terrace marine geology (Westhaven and Trinidad) is missing that key ingredient called soil. if you search the hillsides you can even find the seeps at the intersection of bedrock. this has already been thoroughly studied. you can even google it. and I have a mound system because of the silt.

  • The operative word in the report is, “SOME” of it is from Avian Sources they aren’t claiming that “ALL” of it is from birds so this gives them some wiggle room, ya know!!! Wink Wink Nudge Nudge!!!

    • No, it said “Corrigan said so far the MST test results point to bacteria from bird fecal matter as the likely culprit.”

      Frankly, I’ve always suspected the pit toilets at the parking lot were a questionable idea. I haven’t been there in awhile so I don’t know if they’ve improved. Then there’s the campers. And the people bringing food and leaving garbage for sea gulls and other wildlife. So many issues but apparently no other possibility than failed septic systems offer the scope desired for virtue signally and online shaming.

  • A lot of fertilizer is made out of bird shit.

  • How many millions or billions of dollars do taxpayers pay out to bureaucrats that do absolutely nothing for the environment except to blame and fine the taxpayers who pay their wages? One dollar would be too much, imo.
    Why haven’t they decreased the number of desk jockeys so they can use the funds for literal care of the environment? Where are the filters? Why aren’t there filters like sand and gravel or man made filters in place? Why do they want the harm to the environment to continue day by day by day? How do they benefit from damages to the environment?
    The next time I hear they need to raise higher taxes in order to ‘clean the environment’, I’ll scream.
    Fire the taxpayer moochers and Fix it.

    Thank you, for this good news report. It proves how outlandish the ‘zero tolerance’ toxins levels was more ridiculous than words permitted. I hope and pray they redo their allowable levels allowed so that even the birds can remain free.
    Remember when China banned birds? That didn’t work out so well, and Calif was on the same misguided path.

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