Beach water quality on P.E.I.'s south shore may soon have some monitoring
'I think it's a good place to start but I wish we would do it in a more widespread manner'
The P.E.I. health and tourism departments are taking the first steps towards monitoring the water quality at provincial beaches along the Island's south shore.
- P.E.I. Green party leader calls for water quality testing for Island beaches
- No-swimming advisory at Parlee Beach as temperatures soar
"We're planning to meet with tourism department officials to look at some areas in provincial parks along the south shore that could potentially be subject to contamination," explained Ryan Neale, manager of environmental health with the Chief Public Health office.
"When we identify any areas there, we would then start discussing a risk assessment tool and a sampling protocol that could be put in place if we have concerns."
Concerns about the water quality at Parlee and Murray beaches in New Brunswick have raised red flags on this side of the Northumberland Strait.
"Tourism is very important to the Island, our beaches are well used in the summer," said Neale.
"The information coming out of New Brunswick has been, I think maybe at the front of some peoples' minds and has sparked some concerns, or at least some questions regarding beach water quality on P.E.I."
There are about a dozen provincial beaches along P.E.I.'s south shore.
The first step, says Neale is to pick one or two of the beaches for monitoring, then decide if they need to expand.
"Maybe one or two properties that we feel could potentially be subject to contamination and we'll start with those," he said.
"The beach we've talked about a little bit is Argyle Shore, more so just as a place to start, nothing official there, it could be there, it could be another location."
'Good place to start'
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker raised the issue in the fall sitting of the legislature, calling on the P.E.I. government to start testing the water quality at some Island beaches by the start of the 2017 tourism season.
Bevan-Baker is pleased to hear there has been some movement on the issue.
"It's good news, we've never had as far as I'm aware any testing of provincial beaches," said Bevan-Baker.
"I think it's a good place to start but I wish we would do it in a more widespread manner."
Bevan-Baker suggests P.E.I. should take its beach monitoring one step further, and aim to make some of the Island beaches Blue Flag, a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
"I think it would be a great flagship for P.E.I. to be able to say we have a Blue Flag beach, or several of them."
Last summer, a stream flowing to St. Margaret's Beach from Hay River Pond was closed by P.E.I. public health officials due to elevated bacteria levels.
"We have had a few over the past number of years, we've gone out and sampled those areas," said Neale.
In the case of St. Margaret's Beach, the pond was to blame for the contamination.
"When you get ponds where there's wild animals habitating, then they deposit fecal material into the water, that water flows out onto the beach," Neale explained.
Neale encourages Islanders with concerns about beach water quality to contact the Chief Public Health office.
"Especially if it's related to an illness or anything like that, we would certainly investigate and if necessary that could prompt some testing in a particular area," said Neale.
"But it is important to know that we really don't get very many complaints about recreational water quality."
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Mt. Stewart couple worried about eagle caught in fishing net
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Right whales in trouble in gulf without change, says marine society