Papermill Dam beaches on both sides of the Somass River in Port Alberni have been reopened after high bacterial counts discovered in the water temporarily closed the beaches to swimming.
The First Nations Health Authority lifted the advisory for the beach immediately across the river from Papermill Dam Park after water samples taken Wednesday, Aug. 7 and Thursday, Aug. 8 indicated that Enterococci bacteria levels have returned to within acceptable levels. Island Health has also stated that the advisory for the beach at Papermill Dam may also be lifted.
“The City of Port Alberni will continue to monitor water samples at all public beach sites and communicate results as required,” city CAO Tim Pley said in a press release.
Both the First Nation Health Authority and City of Port Alberni issued advisories closing the beaches to swimming last week. The Tseshaht First Nation also closed the Somass Dam Beach (Hector Road side of Papermill Dam) on Wednesday morning to all in-water activities.
“We are working with the FNHA to find the source of the issue,” a post read on the Tseshaht Facebook page.
A water sample taken July 25 at the Hector Road side of Papermill Dam showed 3,400 parts per 100 mL (colony forming units, or CFU) of E. coli and other coliforms. That is far higher than Island Health standards of 400 parts per 100 mL, or Canadian drinking water standards of 200 CFU.
Tests were conducted on the Falls Street side of the park too, under direction of the City of Port Alberni. That side falls within city limits.
“The city will undertake and submit water samples for testing and will keep an advisory in effect until such time as Island Health is satisfied with results,” Pley said in a press release at the time.
The City of Port Alberni lifted an advisory at Canal Waterfront Park (Canal Beach) on Friday after that beach was plagued with high readings of enterococci (the same bacterial family as E. coli, except it occurs in salt water). Readings taken at Polly’s Point, around the corner from Canal Beach, were within acceptable levels last week, Pley noted in an earlier story.