LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Heal the Bay is warning the public against swimming in the Los Angeles River, after a study found high levels of bacteria in the water at two popular recreational spots.

The nonprofit has long monitored water quality at beaches, and in recent years has turned its attention to studying fresh water recreational spots around Los Angeles, including swimming holes in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Last summer, Heal the Bay looked into the water quality of the Los Angeles River, taking samples from river recreational zones at the Sepulveda Basin area and Elysian Valley, where kayaking and other activities has been permitted in recent years.

Katherine Pease, the author of Heal the Bay’s study, said that while bacteria levels varied in the samples, “overall they were quite high.”

At the Sepulveda Basin recreation zone, the water samples contained levels of the fecal-related bacteria, Enterococcus, that exceeded federal standards in all instances, while the samples at the Elysian Valley zone showed levels of the bacteria exceeding federal standards half of the time, Pease said.

One of the sites in the Elysian Valley, Rattlesnake Park, also had a 67 percent rate of exceeding standards for E. Coli, according to Pease.

The presence of fecal indicator bacteria means there is a risk of contracting ear infections, as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, from the water, according to the Heal the Bay report on the study.

Pease said Heal the Bay is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include the Los Angeles River in its $1.3 billion plan to restore the river measures that would improve water quality.

Heal the Bay’s report also contained the following recommendations and precautionary measures:

— adults and children should avoid swimming and submerging their heads in the river water, and if they do touch the water, to wash it off with soap;

— when kayaking and angling, avoid getting water on the face or entering the water with an open wound or after it has rained;

— groups organizing recreational activities at the river should offer information about the water quality in several languages; and

— the city of Los Angeles and other governmental bodies should conduct testing of the water at least once a week during recreational seasons and at all locations where people are known to go swimming.