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Popular bathing spots checked for swimming safety

Popular bathing spots checked for swimming safety

Many of the Bay of Plenty’s more popular bathing spots are now being monitored to make sure they are safe for swimming.

Every summer, Environment Bay of Plenty staff regularly check more than 80 marine and freshwater sites for signs of faecal contamination, primarily from septic tanks or agricultural runoff. The sites, located between Waihi Beach and the Waioeka River at Opotiki, are generally tested weekly or fortnightly from November until late March. Samples are analysed for faecal indicator bacteria which, if found, shows the likely presence of disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. When results exceed set guidelines, Environment Bay of Plenty contacts the relevant Medical Officer of Health and district council, ensuring steps are taken to protect public health.

Environmental scientist Paul Scholes says 15 of the most popular sites are graded for their level of health risk – green, amber or red - so people can make informed decisions about whether to swim or not. Mr Scholes says water quality generally meets the guidelines set by the Ministry for the Environment, with all sites currently suitable for bathing. However, rivers in particular pose a “dramatically higher health risk” after heavy or prolonged rain because of contaminated runoff from farms and urban areas, especially rural areas on septic tanks. “We recommend people avoid swimming for at least two days afterwards,” he says.

The swimming quality monitoring programme runs alongside an algae-focused programme for the Rotorua Lakes. Results from both are posted on Environment Bay of Plenty’s website at www.envbop.govt.nz. Please call Environment Bay of Plenty on 0800 ENV BOP (368 267) for more information.

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