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Call 0800 SAFESWIM before you take the plunge

a24 October 2006

Call 0800 SAFESWIM before you take the plunge

Aucklanders heading to the beach this summer are encouraged to phone 0800 SAFESWIM and check the water quality before they take the plunge.

Safe Swim, an annual joint programme between Auckland City, North Shore City and Rodney District Councils starts its eighth season tomorrow, keeping you informed about water quality of 68 beaches and lakes in the Auckland region.

Auckland City acting environmental health manager Carole Simpson says the service provides swimmers with access to important information before they go to the beach.

"As many of the region's beaches are located near built-up urban areas, beach-goers need to be aware of water quality issues. We encourage people to call 0800 SAFESWIM before they take off to the beach to find out the latest test results," she says.

Three new beaches have been added for testing this year in Auckland city: Blockhouse Bay, Granny's Bay and Waikowhai Bay. Long Bay north has also been added on the North Shore.

The first water samples will be taken tomorrow and then every Wednesday through summer until 11 April 2007. Results are available on Fridays by calling 0800 SAFESWIM (0800 723 37946) or visiting any of the three councils' websites.

Ms Simpson says the two main sources of pollution at Auckland beaches are stormwater and wet weather sewage overflows.

"Water samples are only collected on Wednesdays so if there is heavy rainfall on Thursday or Friday, the most recent information may not be available. We always strongly recommend people do not swim for 48 hours after heavy rainfall."

The monitoring programme tests for enterococci bacteria in beach water and E. coli in fresh water. A high level of these bacteria indicates the presence of faecal matter and the likely existence of pathogens in the water that can cause illness, most commonly mild diarrhoea or respiratory infections.

Safe Swim uses systems as set in the Ministry for the Environment guidelines to determine how safe the water is.

If the presence of disease is found and depending on the level, the water will be re-tested or warning signs will be erected advising people not to swim while the source of pollution is investigated. This information will be available on council websites and 0800 SAFE SWIM.

Last year Safe Swim was a big success in Auckland city. No warning signs were required and only nine of the 396 water samples collected exceeded levels that meant a re-test was required.

"We hope to continue the success this season so beaches throughout Auckland can be fun and safe places to go this summer," Ms Simpson says.

For more information about the Safe Swim programme, call Auckland City on 379 2020 or visit www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/safeswim.

ENDS

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