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Water pollution levels down on beaches

Samples of seawater at some of Bermuda's most popular beaches showed lower levels of bacteria this year than in the same period in 2019, it was revealed yesterday.

The Ministry of Health said it was “encouraged” by the results of its seawater monitoring programme, which checks to levels of enterococci, a group of bacteria used as indicators of pollution, in line with US Environmental Protection Agency standards for recreational water quality.

A ministry spokeswoman said: “If we compare results May-July 2019 with results from the same period in 2020, we can see that counts this year are substantially lower.”

She added that Horseshoe Bay West recorded 30 colony forming units per 100ml of water for the week of June 30, 2019, compared with 4 CFU per 100ml for the same week this year.

The spokeswoman added: “Likewise, if we look at Tobacco Bay, it saw a count of 17 CFU/100ml on the week of June 9 in 2019 and only 5.5 CFU/100ml that same week in 2020.”

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: “We believe this difference is due to the decreased numbers of swimmers at the bathing beaches.

“It's really good to see how far below the US EPA guidelines we are with all of our beaches which is, of course, great news not only for our tourists and prospective tourists but for anyone enjoying our beaches this season.

“I would like to commend the Ministry of Health team for continuing on with their usual public health protection duties, amid the backdrop of also dealing with a pandemic.”

The spokeswoman added: “The Department of Health routinely samples and tests seawater from Bermuda's beaches to assure bathing water quality.

“Beaches tested include Warwick Long Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Elbow Beach, Grape Bay, Tobacco Bay, Clearwater Beach, Grotto Bay Beach, John Smith's Bay and Shelly Bay.”

She said: “Enterococci are present in human and animal faeces and can enter marine waters from a variety of sources such as storm water runoff, animal and seabird waste, failing septic systems, sewage effluent, boating waste and from bathers themselves.

“During the peak months of April to October, environmental health officers collect water samples at the most popular beaches with the larger beaches having multiple sampling points.

“As a result, approximately 15 samples are collected and tested once a week.”

Members of the public are alerted by signposts when waters exceeded acceptable levels.

The warnings are also released to the media and published on gov.bm.

The spokeswoman said: “The geometric mean is calculated from the enterococci counts over a 30-day period and is updated each week.

“This is done according to the EPA recreational water guidelines, which recommend that the 30-day geometric mean does not exceed 35 enterococci per 100 millilitres.”

For more information, visitgov.bm/seawater-monitoring- programme-bathing-beaches

Horseshoe Bay (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 25, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 25, 2020 at 10:06 am)

Water pollution levels down on beaches

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