New Brunswick

Parlee Beach regular has to wonder: What are we swimming in?

People wanting to take a dip at Parlee Beach continue to wonder if the water is truly clean, even with the better monitoring system the province put in place this summer.

'There has to be a better way,' says regular swimmer of the 2 days it takes to get fecal bacteria results

Longtime resident Tim Borlase swims at Parlee almost every day. (CBC)

People wanting to take a dip at Parlee Beach continue to wonder if the water is truly clean, even with the better monitoring system the province put in place this summer.

There were "no swimming" advisory signs Monday, but only because of high fecal contamination levels on Saturday — 48 hours before.

And on Saturday, there were no warnings, because test results hadn't yet come in.

"I think there has to be a better way," said Tim Borlase, who lives near Parlee Beach.

Borlase likes to go for a swim at the popular beach almost every day. But he realizes he'll never really know if the water is actually clean.

Parlee Beach had a no swimming advisory on Monday because of fecal contamination on Saturday. (Radio-Canada)

"I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place," Borlase. "I don't know whether to swim or not swim. Because whenever I swim it'll be based on information 48 hours in the past."

Never the day of

It takes two whole days between the time water samples are collected at the beach, and when a public health official has the results in their hands.

Samples are taken every day before 12 noon at Parlee Beach and are shipped by bus in the evening to Fredericton, according to Paul Bradley, a communications officer with the Department of Health.

Once the samples are received by the Fredericton lab, it takes about one day to complete testing. A culture has to be done for enterococci — an indicator bacteria for fecal contamination — which takes about 24 hours to incubate.

The province adopted a stricter water-monitoring system this year after controversy over its failure to inform the public about fecal contamination at Parlee. (Radio-Canada)

Elsewhere in the country, where transportation is a lesser factor, results can sometimes be available in 24 hours or less, as is the case for some Toronto beaches.

Borlase feels sending the samples to a Moncton lab would save precious time.

Might improve for next year

Asked whether results would be available faster if samples were to be analyzed in Moncton, acting chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said that was "a very good question."

"Obviously, we would want the results to be available to our staff as early as possible," she said.

Representatives from the RPC lab, which the province contracts to carry out the sampling, confirmed its Moncton location is now trying to get accredited for enterococci testing.

Dr. Benjamin Forward, the head of food, fisheries and aquaculture at the RPC lab, said accreditation is a lengthy process, but the organization hopes hope to get it for this particular test in time for summer 2018.

And that could mean more timely results for swimmers at Parlee Beach.

"It's a possibility," Forward said.

now