Island Health has closed Canal Waterfront Park on the Alberni Inlet to swimming due to high levels of bacteria detected in the water.
Monthly water testing at the Port Alberni beach showed early in July that there were unacceptable levels of enterococci in the area.
Enterococcus (plural is enterococci) is a bacteria usually found in feces. Related to streptococcus, it can cause inflammation and blood infection.
Island Health issued the beach advisory for Canal Waterfront Park (Canal Beach) on July 9, 2019. The City of Port Alberni has posted a sign on the community board at the beach advising people not to swim.
Regular water testing done on June 12 and June 26 showed numbers that were less than five parts per 100 millilitres. A test on July 9, however, showed more than 950 parts per 100 mL, prompting the advisory.
Willa Thorpe, director of Parks, Recreation and Heritage for the City of Port Alberni, said it is difficult to tell the source of the bacteria because Canal Beach is a natural salt water source.
“We’re competing with tides as well,” she said. “We do conduct regular sampling. It would be at the Canal Beach access point as opposed to other areas of the waterfront.”
The city conducts monthly water testing at the beach, with the results going to Island Health. If there is a positive test for bacteria, Island Health advises the city to step up its testing, Thorpe said.
“When there is a positive test, we test each week until there are two consecutive weeks of clean samples.”
Thorpe said she didn’t know which day of the week sampling was taking place.
Although Canal Beach is not a designated off-leash park for dog owners, many people take their dogs to run on the beach and swim in the water. Thorpe said although the beach advisory is primarily for humans “as a pet owner identifying potential concerns, I would hope people treat their pets accordingly.”
The Alberni Valley News has reached out to a local veterinarian to ask whether high levels of enterococci detected in the water will also adversely affect dogs.