Rash of Parlee Beach no-swim advisories continues to cause concern


Three no-swimming advisories at Parlee Beach due to high fecal bacteria were issued this week, bringing the total to 13 so far this summer.

The advisories were issued because E. coli and enterococcus bacteria counts exceeded Canadian recreational water quality guidelines at the provincial park east of Shediac, NB

Barb Leck, who has a cottage in nearby Pointe-du-Chêne, has been coming to the beach each summer.

Leck checks the water quality test results daily. Even when they’re good, she says, they rinse off after swimming when leaving the beach.

“We’re quite concerned about it, really,” Leck said. “We’re surprised that it hasn’t been fixed up because there’s been a lot of money pumped into it.”

CBC News requested an interview with New Brunswick’s Tourism Department, which manages the provincial park, as well at the Department of Environment. No interviews were provided.

Barb Leck, who has a cottage near Parlee Beach, says she’s quite concerned about the number of no swimming advisories. (Ian Bonnell/CBC)

Parlee is one of several provincial beaches that had no swimming advisories this week.

Advisories were also in place Thursday afternoon into Friday morning at Murray Beach on the Northumberland Strait, New River Beach near Saint John, and Oak Bay near St. Stephen.

The advisories at Parlee and Murray beaches were lifted by Friday afternoon.

‘I just don’t want to get the germs on me’

The advisories mean beachgoers are warned that the water isn’t suitable for swimming, but the beach itself remains open.

Swimming in the water doesn’t automatically cause illness, but the province’s Department of Health says it could cause gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation or infection, and upper respiratory illness.

A person stands in the water at Parlee Beach on Friday morning. (Shane Magee/CBC)

On Friday morning as the sun emerged and before the advisory was lifted, several adults and children were wading into the water at Parlee.

Leck’s six-year-old granddaughter Clara Merner prefers to play in the sand.

“The water — I just don’t want to get the germs on me,” Merner said.

Her older sister Maddi Merner and their friend Quinn Strong were counting hermit crabs along the water line.

“We’re mostly playing and since the water isn’t that good to swim in, we’re not dunking,” Maddi Merner said.

Multiple water samples are collected from water along Parlee Beach each morning from mid-May through October and sent to a lab in Fredericton for testing.

Results are available about 24 hours later, meaning the no-swim advisories are posted a day after the elevated bacteria was present in the water.

Parlee advisories exceed other areas

The province began reporting test results online in 2017 following a series of stories about problems with testing and water quality at Parlee Beach.

The number of advisories at Parlee exceed those at other beaches so far this year, though testing is less frequent at other locations.

A sign at one of the entrances to Parlee Beach warns that the water isn’t suitable for swimming due to high bacteria counts. (Shane Magee/CBC)

There have been seven no-swim advisories at Murray Beach, which is about 30 kilometers east of Parlee. Oak Bay has had five. New River has had two.

Parlee Beach has recorded no-swim advisories on May 19, May 24, June 2, June 13, June 15, June 21, June 25, July 16, July 21, July 29, Aug. 9, Aug. 10, and Aug. 11.

In a statement Friday, Environment Department spokesperson Vicky Lutes suggested the recent Parlee advisories could be linked to recent rainfall and called the overall water quality “good.”

Last year, CBC reported 13 advisories had been issued at Parlee as of Aug. 10, which was the most by that point of the summer since results began to be posted online.

The summer saw a total of 20 advisories at Parlee, topping the previous high of 14 in 2018.

The province spent millions studying the watershed to try to determine the source or sources of the bacteria. No single source was determined.

A news release from the province in 2018 states it determined “there is no evidence of a chronic water quality issue.”

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