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Annual testing of popular swim spots to start soon

Annual testing of popular swim spots to start soon

Annual Northland Regional Council summer water quality tests to indicate how safe our most popular beaches, rivers and lakes are for swimming will begin again shortly. (subs: Mon Nov 26)

The Northland regional council has been monitoring bacterial levels at popular swimming spots over summer for more than a decade.

John Ballinger, the council’s Environmental Monitoring Programme Manager, says this year’s programme is due to begin on Monday November 26 and will run until the last week of March next year.

“The programme monitors bacterial levels at beaches, lakes and rivers most often used for swimming, water sports and similar forms of recreation.”

He says hundreds of samples will be taken from 48 coastal and 11 freshwater sites across the region this year.

Results from the testing programme will be posted online every Friday at www.nrc.govt.nz/swimming allowing Northlanders - and those visiting the region - to make informed decisions about where they swim.

Mr Ballinger says the summer samples will be given one of three grades depending on the number of bacteria they contain: ‘Green’ (safe to swim), ‘Amber’ (elevated bacteria levels) or ‘Red’ (unsafe for swimming).

As well as being posted on the regional council’s website, results will also be forwarded weekly to all three district councils, the Northland District Health Board and other interested parties.

Mr Ballinger says the health board (DHB) and district councils are also informed of any results showing elevated bacterial levels within 24 hours.

“It’s then the DHB and the appropriate district council’s responsibility to take action. This can take a variety of forms including further site investigations to establish the source of any contamination, public warnings not to swim or gather shellfish, or putting up permanent warning signs at the worst sites.”

Mr Ballinger says most of the popular spots the regional council monitors are usually safe for swimming, although Northland’s high rainfall and hilly terrain meant many could be temporarily contaminated by run-off from the land for several days after heavy rain.

Those wanting to check water quality at their favourite spot can visit the council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/swimming or freephone 0800 002 004 for more information.

Mr Ballinger says there are also four simple tips people can use as a useful rule of thumb when trying to judge water quality:

• Don’t swim if there are warning signs indicating unsafe water
• Don’t swim for two or three days after heavy rain
• Don’t swim if water looks dirty/murky, smells or has scum on its surface;
• Be aware of potential sources of contamination – both nearby and upstream.

Meanwhile, Mr Ballinger says anyone wanting to report concerns about water quality can contact the regional council’s freephone 24/7 Environmental Hotline on 0800 504 639.


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