Nova Scotia

Lake Banook water tests OK for swimming

Birch Cove Beach will reopen for swimming at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Lake Banook will reopen for swimming at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Birch Cove beach has been closed since Tuesday after three lifeguards fell ill and more than 30 people who use the beach came down with a gastrointestinal illness.

Three consecutive water quality tests were performed at Lake Banook in Dartmouth for E.coli bacteria this week and all three have shown levels are within the normal range.

The investigation, carried out by city officials, found no evidence to suggest an ongoing threat to the public's health.

"It looks like there was an exposure to what we call a viral gastroenteritis," said Richard Gould, acting medical officer of health for Capital Health.

Gould said last Saturday's heavy rain could have washed something into the water.

All of the people who got sick visited the beach on Sunday or Monday, most were teenagers and children.

Health officials say the virus is caused by infected human excrement and in no small amount for so many people to get sick.

"It would've been from a fecal source of some type that then washed into the water from some source — we don't know exactly what — but got into the water, [and] the virus was in that," said Gould. "Then people would've swallowed that if they were swimming and became infected."

Back in 2008 the Halifax Water Commission lowered the level of Lake Banook to install a new sewer pipe that runs both inside and directly along the shore of the lake.

But everything there is working as it should be.

"There's no ongoing hazard at this point, the water has been very carefully tested in terms of the bacteriological quality and that's important," said Gould.

That seems to be enough for at least one swimmer.

"If they do the tests and it says it's fine, then I think it's alright, they know what they're doing," said Luke Wolfe.

Halifax Water confirmed Friday that there were no overflows from the wastewater pumping station servicing the area.