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E.coli closes West Vancouver beaches for swimming

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… They’re back. Hundreds of E.
A signed posted at one of West Vancouver's beaches telling swimmers to stay out of the water.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

They’re back. Hundreds of E.coli bacteria (per 100 milliltres of water), have made the water off the beaches in Ambelside, Dundarave, Eagle Harbour and Sandy Cove unsafe for human contact for the second time this summer.

Vancouver Coastal Health issued an advisory about the beaches Thursday afternoon after local testing found E.coli coliform counts ranging from 246 in Ambleside to 502 in Eagle Harbour. Anything above 200 is considered high risk.

“I know in past years we sometimes have trouble with Deep Cove where there’s just not as much tidal exchange. This is quite unusual that the West Vancouver beaches (are) affected like this because they face the ocean a lot more,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, the North Shore’s medical health officer.

During the last beach water advisory, the coliform numbers spiked into the thousands in some samples taken in West Vancouver.

Possible culprits for the high spike in counts include leaky sewer lines, Metro Vancouver discharging treated sewage, shipping traffic and recreational boaters, but in this case, it was likely naturally occurring thanks to last week’s rain and this week’s high temperatures. Lyshyshin said.

“All of that rain carries animal feces into the water with it and then we get warm weather like this and those bacteria can proliferate,” he said. “Unfortunately the time we want to be in the water is the same time when bacteria grow.”

The more you are exposed to the water, the higher the likelihood you will experience gastrointestinal illness, with symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting or infections of wounds or orifices.

The unusually high E.coli counts that resulted in the last advisory likely came from a ship in Vancouver harbour.

“It did seem like something had been released from a ship or something like that and we had one citizen report something like that occurring so we referred that to Transport Canada and (Port Metro Vancouver) to investigate further,” he said.

It is illegal to dump waste within 200 kilometres of the shore and penalties range from heavy fines to jail time, according to John Parker-Jervis, Port Metro Vancouver Spokesman.

District of West Vancouver staff, meanwhile, will be keeping a close eye on the beaches’ E.coli levels over the long weekend, said Jeff MacDonald, district spokesman.

“As soon as we hear the advisory is lifted, we’ll let the public know,” he said.