Island Health wants municipalities to monitor water quality at beachs like Comox Lake  /  George Le Masurier photo

Who’s monitoring water quality at Island beaches?

Sep 10, 2019 | Environment, News

By George Le Masurier

The Vancouver Island Health Authority announced last month that it planned to drop a public health responsibility and dump it onto BC municipalities, but it apparently forgot to inform municipal officials.

The health authority said it has already stopped monitoring water quality at popular public beaches, and that it had told municipalities last summer that the responsibility would shift to them.

Courtenay CAO David Allen says he hasn’t seen anything in writing from Island Health.

“The City of Courtenay has reached out to Island Health to request further information and documentation about this change in their policy,” Allen told Decafnation. “City staff are also in discussions with other regional local governments to identify roles and responsibilities.”

Shelley Ashfield, the Town of Comox’s chief engineer said the Town has not received any directive from VIHA regarding sampling of any public beaches at this time.

Rob Crisfield, manager of operations for the Village of Cumberland told Decafnation with possibly a hint of irony that “The village is not currently monitoring any beaches.”

And there was no response from the Comox Valley Regional District.

Regardless of where the communications went awry, no water quality testing has apparently occurred this summer at popular north Island beaches.

An Island Health officer said some municipalities in the south Island, such as Saanich and the Capital Regional District have taken on the task, while most have not.

Island Health has a long list of north Island beaches that should be monitored. They include beaches at Goose Spit, Kin Beach, Kitty Coleman, Kye Bay, Tribune Bay, Little Tribune Bay and Whaling Station Bay on Hornby Island, Miracle Beach, Point Holmes, Puntledge Park and Puntledge River swimming areas and Saratoga Beach.

Island Health says that environmental Health Officers have reviewed water quality results from samples at popular beach areas every summer and posted advisories where swimming was not recommended.

But, a VIHA spokesperson said, they were transferring the task of taking samples and providing oversight to municipalities as all the other BC health authorities have done. Island Health will pay the cost of analysis and courier fees to testing laboratories and will continue to post the results and advisories on their website.

Water quality tests for indicator bacteria identify whether fecal contamination exists and to what degree. A “no swimming” advisory would be posted if the average of several samples exceeds 200 E. coli or 35 Enterococci, or a single sample exceeds 400 E. Coli or 70 Enterococci per sample.




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