Just in time for the May long weekend, Island Health issued a warning that the water off Maple Bay Beach may be unsafe for swimming.
A regular sampling program conducted by Island Health during the warmer months indicated late last week that levels of bacteria near the beach were higher than normal and could potentially cause health concerns. "The Maple Bay count came back Friday, and it was much higher than the normal levels for acceptable safety," Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback said.
As a precaution, North Cowichan Parks and Recreation, the beach operator, was advised to put up signs in the area warning visitors of the situation. The beach is not closed, but the signs indicate that swimming and wading are not recommended.
"Be prudent – do not risk your health," they advise.
The water is being re-tested to determine if the risks continue.
"Depending on the results, the signs might stay up, or they might come down," Hasselback said.
Beaches are tested from once a week to once a month, depending on how much they are used by the public.
Usually, the second samples are done within 24 to 48 hours, Hasselback noted, but that wasn’t possible this time.
"We ran into a Friday before a long weekend," he explained.
Waterborne bacteria can cause abdominal cramps and possibly diarrhea, Hasselback noted.
"It’s not something to laugh off," he said. "It can be uncomfortable for those who become ill."
Swimmers risk encountering waterborne bacteria any time they venture into waters outside of controlled environments.
"We remind anyone who swims in recreational watercourses that it’s a bit different from going into a pool that has chlorinated water," Hasselback said.