Canal Waterfront Park is open for swimming, despite an advisory earlier this summer, but the City of Port Alberni is working on longer-term options when it comes to communicating advisories.
Earlier this summer, some local residents were surprised to find a Beach Advisory Warning at Canal Waterfront Park (also known as Canal Beach), warning the public that the water was unsafe for swimming and other water contact activities after water tests found “high levels of bacteria.”
In response, former mayor John Douglas wrote a letter to council, criticizing the city for a lack of openness.
“The common practices when a beach or other area is closed due to health reasons is to provide the reason, and to provide reasonable updates, in most cases daily and publicly, for example on a website and on a bulletin board at the specific location,” he wrote. “It also, in this case, would be reasonable to have provided to the public the test results of alternative swimming sites, such as River Road, Paper Mill Dam, and Sproat Lake Provincial Park.”
During a council meeting on Monday, July 27, Parks, Recreation and Heritage manager Willa Thorpe said that the city is conducting weekly tests at Canal Waterfront Park, and is working with Island Health on next steps.
“It’s often a challenge with testing results at Canal Beach,” she said. “We’ve been testing Canal for six years, and often this time of year we receive positive tests.”
She added that the city is looking at “longer-term options” for communicating with the public, so swimmers know exactly what to expect as the summer months approach and positive tests are recorded.
“We want to ensure that our messaging is consistent with our health officers, so we are consistent with how we’re testing, our procedures and how we’re communicating with the public,” said Thorpe.
Island Health’s Central Vancouver Island Beach Sampling Results show that there was a high reading at the end of June this year. Thorpe confirmed on Thursday, July 30 that the advisory at Canal Beach was then lifted after two consecutive weeks of “clean” samples.
“Canal Beach is open for swimming,” she said. “There is no current advisory in place. In the event that there is an advisory, our website will be updated.”
The city is also conducting regular tests at Paper Mill Dam.