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Beach-goers beware of bacteria levels

By Shelby Wye

Nothing ruins a good beach day more than the dreaded sign: “unsafe for bathing: high levels of bacteria.”

To the naked eye, it seems like everything is clean. There’s no dead fish washed ashore, no algae, the sun is bright and everything looks to be in order. However, the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties health unit explains otherwise.

“We test at the beginning of the week,” said Dave Dodgson, the manager of environmental health.“That way we can get the results out before the weekend.”

The ‘test’ he is talking about is the five samples of lake water that his team takes from every single beach in Quinte. That’s 18 beaches from every corner of the county.

The samples are taken to a provincial lab, and depending on the bacteria levels they get back, the beach will either remain open or will be closed until the next testing period.

Even though the water may have low levels of E. coli at the time of the sampling, Dodgson still cautions people against swimming in the couple of days following a rainstorm.

“All the dirt from the surface, all the stuff on the road, goes down the storm drains and into the water. That can include trash pollutants…and even fecal matter from animals,” said Dodgson.

Other E. coli causers included storm water run off, outdated sewage systems, and over fertilization of yards and gardens.

These pollutants are what raise the water to unacceptable bacteria levels. Those who swim in polluted water are putting themselves at risk for nose, ear, eyes and throat infections. There’s even a possibility of stomach problems if the water is ingested.

But don’t think that one week of too-high bacteria will doom your beach all summer. The reports from 2012 beach reports showed that within two weeks, a beach went from high levels of bacteria to extremely safe waters.

“We’re looking forward to a good bathing season, hopefully without too many postings,” said Dodgson.

To check your local beach, find the posting online [1], or call 613 966 5513 ext. 652

 

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