The long and splendid days of summer are gone. And though the bustling crowds upon the shores of the Puget Sound and Lake Washington have thinned, the risk of contaminated water still lingers.

While the Washington State Department of Ecology and King County do not sample the bacterial levels at swim beaches during the winter, the department is reminding people visiting beaches to swim or kayak, that water may have health risks.

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During heavy rainfall, water flows off the land and into nearby lakes, rivers and beaches. Water can come into contact with waste from humans, pets and wildlife, and make people sick. During especially heavy rains, sewage systems can overflow and discharge untreated sewage into nearby bodies of water, according to the Department of Ecology.

Contact with fecal-contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, wound infections and upper respiratory infections.

The Department of Ecology recommends:

  • Reducing contact with fresh or marine water after heavy rain
  • Avoiding water recreation like swimming or kayaking for 24 hours after a heavy rain
  • Avoiding areas where pipes or streams drain directly to the beach
  • Showering after swimming
  • Washing your hands after contact with water or sand