New Brunswick

'What's causing the pollution?': Residents skeptical of new water tests

Residents remain concerned over the water quality at New Brunswick's Parlee Beach ahead of its official season opening Friday, despite the introduction of new provincial water monitoring regulations.

The province rolls out new protocols to test beach water, but residents want it cleaned up

New water quality signage at Parlee Beach will let people know if the water is suitable for swimming. (CBC)

Residents remain concerned over the water quality at New Brunswick's Parlee Beach ahead of its official season opening Friday, despite the introduction of new provincial water monitoring regulations.

"This is good but the bigger concern is what's causing the pollution and what's being done to find the sources and stop the pollution," said Bluff resident Janet Gordon.

Janet Gordon, a resident of Shediac’s Bluff community is concerned that only monitoring Parlee Beach's water is not enough to fix issues that plague the beach. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

"I don't think a lot is in place this year to improve the situation," Gordon said.

Arthur Melanson, Pointe-du-Chêne resident and member of the Save Wetland Waters and Tourism coalition said that implementing new signage, monitoring and advising the public on water quality is a positive step forward.

However, he said it's not enough to get to the root of the water quality issue.

"We've got the signage correctly, we're doing the sampling on a daily basis, but where are we at in finding the source of the problem?" Melanson said. "Nothing has really been done."

Coalition member Arthur Melanson wants to see action from the province to fix the water quality issues at Parlee Beach. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

"The only thing they are remedying right now is advising the public, which is good to do because you have to protect the health of the public which is going to come first."

Both Melanson and Gordon said they're worried about the impact of poor water quality on tourism. Parlee Beach is one of the most visited beaches in the province.

"It's definitely a tourist attraction and we need to keep it clean," Melanson said. "We gotta start thinking differently from the past and we have to start protecting this bay."

The new measures

The new water monitoring protocols announced by the Ministry of Environment focus on gathering data on two different types of bacteria, said the province's acting chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said tests for E. coli and enterococcus will be performed daily between 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at five different checkpoints along the shoreline. Ten samples will be collected, two at each checkpoint.

New protocols at Parlee Beach this summer will test for two different types of bacteria, E. coli and enterococcus at five different points along the shoreline. (CBC)

While there are efforts to monitor the water, there are still no official efforts to clean up the water itself.

"Not at this time, no. We're focusing on this summer in terms of the new protocols," Russell said.  

New signs posted at the entrance to the beach walkway will advise people if the water is safe for swimming.

A map of the five checkpoints where water will be tested at Parlee Beach. (CBC/courtesy of Province of New Brunswick)

Information needs to be quicker

However, it will take the government 48 hours to turn over the data once they've collected samples.

"Having this information is some what helpful but the problem as they said is that it takes 48 hours between the sample and the information," Gordon said.

"It's always going to be a bit out of date, which makes it makes not the perfect most solid basis to make decisions."

Last summer, there were 45 days in which the fecal bacteria levels were high enough to pose a health risk to the public.

Public information on water quality is currently available on the New Brunswick government's website but there's still no information on the official Tourism New Brunswick site.

A communications officer with Tourism, Heritage and Culture told CBC News that information about the water quality should be on the website by Friday under the beaches section.