Bunker collected near the docks at Riverhead Moose Lodge marina.Photo: Peter Blasl

In the wake of the two massive bunker kills that left tens of thousands of dead fish floating on local waterways and amassing on the shores of the Peconic River and western Flanders Bay, county health officials are warning residents and visitors to follow some “common-sense recommendations” if they choose to recreate in the affected areas.

Swimming and bathing
Officials urge people to swim only at regulated bathing beaches. Regulated beaches are monitored and usually safe for swimming, health officials said. When the waters at any regulated beach reveal the presence of bacteria at levels that exceed New York State standards, the health department closes that beach. Beaches that are not permitted for swimming are not monitored by the department and the waters may be unsafe for swimming. The status of regulated bathing beaches can be found at the beach program web page .

Wading, fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing
Recreating in water, even on a raft or boat, poses some potential for the skin and face to come into contact with water that may contain bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms. If you are exposed to water that may be unsafe, you can help protect yourself by following the advice below:

· Avoid water with accumulations of dead fish.
· Avoid recreating in cloudy or discolored water, as it may contain more microorganisms that might make people sick and affect a person’s ability to see underwater hazards.

· Don’t swallow water and keep your face and head out of the water. This reduces exposure to bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms that might make people sick by entering the body by swallowing, and through eyes, ears and nose.

· Wash your hands when you leave the water and before eating. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

· Shower as soon as you are finished with your activities for the day.

Contact with dead fish
Do not handle or eat fish that are found dead, dying, acting abnormal or seem sick. If you must handle dead or decaying matter, make sure your hands are covered with disposable nitrile, rubber or plastic protective gloves or a plastic bag before touching the fish. If your skin is exposed to the dead fish, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you accidentally ingest any decaying matter, seek medical attention immediately.

Eating fish caught from waters where the dead fish were found

Fish can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause illness. It is difficult to determine the risks from eating live fish caught from areas where there are large masses of dead fish. If you have caught a live fish and choose to eat it, be sure to cook the fish thoroughly to kill bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms, as is always good practice.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.