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Swimming warning – contaminated beaches

Swimming warning – Maraetotara Lagoon, Waipuka Stream at Ocean Beach, Puhokio Stream at Waimarama and Kairakau Lagoon contaminated

Hawke’s Bay’s District Health Board Medical Officer of Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, today issued a warning, advising members of the public not to swim in the Maraetotara Lagoon, Waipuka Stream at Ocean Beach, Puhokio Stream, at Waimarama, or Kairakau Lagoon due to contamination.

Dr McElnay says monitoring by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council identified high levels of E.coli in water samples taken on Tuesday 8 th February. “The levels exceeded the maximum levels recommended in the Ministries of Health and Environments Recreational Water Guidelines”. The level of these bacteria indicates excessive amounts of faecal matter, either animal or human was in the water.

All surface water should be assessed before swimming by checking the water clarity, evaluating the number of animals and water birds in or near the swimming point. The safety of water can change rapidly following heavy rain and it is recommended that three days of fine weather should pass before swimming at any river, lagoon or estuary. Extremely heavy rainfall can also make the sea contaminated as well. However in this situation it has not rained appreciably prior.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will be resampling the sites. The relevant local authority will be putting up warning signs at the affected sites.

Where shellfish are present close to these sites it is important to bear in mind that shellfish filter contaminants from the water they are growing in and hold that contamination for an extended period of time. Consumption of contaminated shellfish can lead to serious infections. It is likely that the shellfish will be infectious for some time into the future but the factors that affect this are complex and not fully characterised.

It may be tempting to “hit” the water, however the Public Health Unit recommends that people phone the Safe Swimming Line for the latest water quality results before they set off for a day in or on the water. The line is updated regularly with information on sites that are contaminated.

“This is definitely a good time to use a swimming pool.” Dr McElnay said.

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