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Advice on North Shore City beach water quality

North Shore City Council programme gives up-to-the minute information and advice on beach water quality

Water quality tests on North Shore beaches have been clear so far this summer.

North Shore City Council pollution prevention co-ordinator Rachel Zaloum says that the water quality on North Shore beaches is tested every week, and so far all results have been well within national health guidelines for swimming.

However, she says, weekly testing is only part of an integrated programme that gives the public up-to-the-minute information about water quality on North Shore beaches.

The council responds immediately to any pollution issues, and erects “red post” public health warning signs if there is any concern that the water may not be safe for swimming.

“Our contractors and staff – and members of the public – advise us if there is any event which might make it unsafe for people to swim in a particular area.

“Our pollution response team follows up immediately, and if there is real concern we will put up warning signs even before we have got the water quality test results back.”

With the peak swimming period approaching, it is vital that visitors and residents have clear, timely and accessible information about beach water quality.

For this reason, North Shore City participates in the “0800 SAFESWIM” phone service, which gives up-to-the-minute information on beach water quality. The North Shore City Council website www.northshorecity.govt.nz gives the same information.

Ms Zaloum says that the North Shore does have some beach water quality issues, mainly caused by contaminated runoff from urban land during heavy rain.

“For the past seven years, our council has been advising that people should not swim at any of our beaches for 24 hours after heavy rain. The rain washes contaminants off our streets and backyards and ultimately into the sea. It also increases the risk of wastewater overflows.”

The public is also advised not to swim in the stagnant pools that often form where small streams or stormwater pipes flow out onto a beach. These pools, which are often seen as “safe” play areas for small children, form ideal breeding grounds for bacteria.

Ms Zaloum says that the council’s ‘Project Care’ wastewater network improvement programme is aimed at reducing the risk of wastewater overflows.

“Because we are a very densely populated urban area, we will always have a problem with contaminants being washed off the land and into the sea, so the advice that people should not swim after heavy rain will most likely always apply.

“However Project Care will certainly assist in reducing the number of localised beach water quality issues.”

Ms Zaloum says that the joint Ministry for the Environment/Ministry of Health national recreational water quality guidelines and beach gradings are more useful for long-term environmental management than for immediate advice on whether or not to swim at a particular beach.

“The system grades beaches from “very poor” to “very good”. These gradings are arrived at after compiling five years of water quality data, along with an assessment of the local water catchment – an urban catchment is seen as a higher risk than pristine bush or forest.

Twenty-three of North Shore's 27 coastal beaches are graded as good or very good. This means that they meet water quality guidelines virtually all of the time. It is still however advised not to swim at any urban beaches after heavy rain, and not to play in still or stagnant water on beaches.

Three North Shore beaches are graded ‘fair’. These are Takapuna, Milford and Browns Bay. It is expected that these gradings will improve as the results of Project Care and other improvement programmes become apparent.

On the North Shore, only one coastal area is rated ‘poor.’ This is the Wairau Outlet at the Milford Marina. A permanent public health warning sign advising against swimming is erected in this area.

For up to date water quality information for all North Shore beaches and Lake Pupuke call 0800SAFESWIM or visit www.northshorecity.govt.nz

ENDS

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