Advisories for two Greater Victoria beaches due to high bacteria levels: Island Health

Advisories for two Greater Victoria beaches due to high bacteria levels: Island Health
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod

Island Health has issued beach advisories for two more Greater Victoria beaches after high enterococci levels were found in surrounding waters.

Recent water sampling at Willows Beach in Oak Bay and Gyro Beach in Cadboro Bay resulted in “Unsatisfactory Bacteriological Water Results,” according to the health authority. The advisories for both beaches were issued on Friday, Sept. 1.

An enterococci count of 125 was sampled at Willows Beach, while a count of 459 was sampled at Gyro Beach. Island Health says an advisory is considered when a single sample exceeds 70 enterococci per 100 ml sample.

Health Canada says enterococci “are a bacteriological indicator of fecal contamination,” and local health officials note that the water may be unsafe for swimming.

“Beach advisories are recommended by Island Health when there is indication that the water may be unsafe for recreational water activities such as swimming,” the health authority says on its website.

“This could be based on elevated bacterial levels in the water or other potential contaminants that increases the risk of illness to the public.”

Island Health says public beaches are not technically ‘closed’ to the public while an advisory is in place. It says environmental officers work “with local government and agencies to ensure a warning sign is posted to advise the public when the water may be unsafe.”

The District of Oak Bay, for example, is aware of the bacteria at Willows Beach and on Friday said signs would be posted to let people know.

“Recent water tests have indicated high levels of bacteria in the water at Willows Beach, which may pose a risk to health. The area is unsafe for swimming and other water contact activities until further notice,” the district said in a Facebook post.

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

This isn’t the first advisory for Willows Beach this summer. Island Health previously issued an advisory there on Aug. 17 after an enterococci count of 4,400 was found in water sampled from the south end. Oak Bay later rescinded this advisory on Aug. 24.

Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, a permanent beach advisory is in effect for Art Mann Park in Duncan due to long-standing high bacteria levels. Glen Lake in Langford, meanwhile, has been under an advisory since July 7 due to unsatisfactory water results.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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