Local beaches have a clean bill of health, according to the latest Fraser Health E. coli monitoring results, making the Tri-City watering holes ideal spots for cooling off in the hot weather.
Still, beach-goers are advised to check the most recent water quality reports before jumping in the water and to refrain from drinking lake or sea water, or eating after a dip without rigorously washing their hands.
The problem is that E. coli can lead to serious illness, according to Timothy Millard, environmental health officer with Fraser Health, so people shouldn’t take chances.
“If they are feeling ill, they should contact a doctor or go to a health clinic,” Millard said.
For the most part, local beaches have been clean. Fraser Health’s website has E. coli numbers for a number of beaches in the Lower Mainland, including those at Belcarra Park, Buntzen Lake, Old Orchard and White Pine Beach, and they are updated weekly, usually Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.
“If there’s no sign or any notification on Fraser Healths’s website then we consider the public safe to be swimming there,” Millard said.
Millard said water samples are taken weekly and sent to a Metro Vancouver or BC Centre for Disease Control lab for checking, with the results posted Thursday afternoon or Friday mornings at www.fraserhealth.ca.
If E. coli numbers are above 200 parts per 100 ml — generally the result of waste from wildlife or humans — beaches are closed and the public is informed. Signs are typically posted at park entrances.
Only two local beaches have been closed so far this summer: Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby, which was closed briefly for high E. coli counts; and Hatzic Lake in Mission, closed because of a potential algae bloom.
But beaches in Belcarra and Port Moody currently have E. coli counts well below the 200 per 100mL.
Water sampling numbers are based on an average of five samples, with monitoring beginning at the end of May and typically ending mid-September. Warmer weather can lead to higher E. coli counts because there are more nutrients in the water to feed the bacteria.
For more information, visit www.fraserhealth.ca and type "beach conditions" in the search tool to get the latest water quality results.