Oak Bay warns swimmers of high bacteria levels at Willows Beach

Oak Bay warns swimmers of high bacteria levels at Willows Beach
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod

The District of Oak Bay is advising people to stay out of the water at Willows Beach due to bacteria that may be unsafe for swimming and pose health risks.

Recent water tests have indicated record high levels of bacteria in the water at the beach, “which may pose a risk to health,” according to the district’s advisory.

“The area is unsafe for swimming and other water contact activities until further notice,” the district said in a Facebook post on Friday, Aug. 18.

“Signs will be posted at the beach to notify visitors.”

The sandy public beach, located off Beach Drive, is adjacent to Willows Park. Tourism Victoria calls it one of the region’s “most popular swimming beaches.”

Island Health says it issued a beach advisory on Thursday, Aug. 17, after environmental health officers tested the water at Willows Beach, resulting in “Unsatisfactory Bacterial Results.”

Data shows an enterococci bacteria count of 4,400 in a water sample from the beach’s south end, which beats the previous record of 180 set in June 2016. 

The health authority says a geometric mean, or a minimum of five waters samples, must not exceed 35 enterococci per 100 ml sample, while a single sample must not exceed 70 enterococci.

Health Canada, meanwhile, notes enterococci “are a bacteriological indicator of fecal contamination.”

On its website, Island Health says officers “work with local governments and agencies providing oversight of beaches to monitor water quality at popular public beaches.”

Elsewhere, unsatisfactory bacterial advisories are also in effect for Glen Lake in Langford and Ross Bay Beach in Victoria since July 7 and 27, respectively, while long-standing bacteria levels have resulted in a permanent advisory for Art Mann Park in Duncan.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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