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For peace of mind at the beach, call 0800 SAFESWIM

For peace of mind at the beach, call 0800 SAFESWIM

With the holidays fast approaching, we are now a month into our fourth season of 0800 SAFESWIM – Auckland City, North Shore City and Rodney District Councils’ beach water quality testing service.

The water quality at 55 beaches throughout Rodney District, North Shore City and Auckland City (including Waiheke and Great Barrier islands) are monitored weekly from the beginning of November through the end of April.

Test results are available from the Friday of each week, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 0800 SAFESWIM (0800 72 33 79) or by visiting the three councils’ individual websites.

Auckland City’s Works Committee chairperson Bill Christian says the joint service provides beach-goers with useful information on water quality. “By working together, the three councils can do much to ensure peace of mind for users of our more popular beaches,” he says. “This is also an effective way of pooling resources to achieve a consistent approach to water quality standards.”

The monitoring programme tests for enteroccoci bacteria in beach water. A high level of enteroccoci indicates the presence of harmful bacteria in beach water. The bacteria can cause illness – most commonly, mild diarrhoea illnesses or respiratory infections.

If beach water quality tests show high levels of enteroccoci, people will be advised not to swim. Warning signs will be erected at affected beaches, and the source of the pollution will be investigated. As a general rule, people are advised not to swim for 48 hours after heavy rainfall because stormwater and wet weather sewerage overflows are the two main sources of beach water pollution at regional beaches.

Since the start of this season’s testing on 30 October 2002, 75 samples have been taken from Auckland City beaches. Only one exceeded the recommended level. However, re-sampling showed that, within a 24-hour period, the level had returned to normal.

Although the population of Auckland has grown significantly in the last few years (estimated increase from 362,000 in 1996 to 401,000 in 2002), the quality of our beach water over the past four summers has remained fairly constant, with very few one-off test results exceeding the recommended level.

Bill Christian says this is encouraging and further proof that Aucklanders can continue to enjoy their recreational beaches during the summer.

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