EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 20, 2013

Bacteria at the beach

Rain leads to more problems than hot weather does

By John Toole

---- — SALEM — The hot, dry weather is a beachgoer’s friend in more ways than one.

“Thank goodness for the dryness,” said Sonya Carlson, New Hampshire’s environmental beach inspector

Carlson had two beaches under fecal bacteria advisories, including Hedgehog Pond in Salem.

“Two is pretty good,” Carlson said yesterday. “We usually have more than that.”

It’s the rainy weather, not the heat, that spoils a day at the beach.

“Everything is getting washed in the water,” Carlson said.

When high counts from fecal bacteria show up, as they did at Hedgehog Pond on July 8, 10 and 15, that’s never a good thing.

It can put people at risk of getting sick.

“Gastrointestinal problems of all sorts,” Carlson said.

That means vomiting and diarrhea.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which operates the beach water quality monitoring program, doesn’t close beaches, but posts advisories on the sand and on the Web.

Other agencies will sometimes act on those advisories and close beaches.

Jeanine Bannon of Salem’s recreation department said the beach at Hedgehog had been closed to swimming for more than a week.

“It’s kind of wait and see at this point,” Bannon said.

The wait will go on. Carlson said the fecal bacteria numbers at Hedgehog remained elevated in the latest testing round.

Bannon didn’t have swimmer counts yesterday, but said the beach had one of its biggest crowds ever in good weather this summer.

Hedgehog has had a history with advisories. There have been past problems with geese fouling the water.

Also under a fecal bacteria advisory this week was Pawtuckaway State Park in Raymond, which draws people from the Derry area.

Swimmers were still in the water at Pawtuckaway yesterday, despite the advisory, Carlson said.

Nick Levergood, who works in administration at the state park, said an advisory previously was posted Fourth of July week.

Pawtuckaway is a popular destination.

“We will have 1,000 people on a busy day,” Levergood said.

New Hampshire also tracks toxin-producing algae blooms, but none of the region’s lakes or ponds were under advisories this week.

However, conditions are favorable for algae blooms.

“It seems like they will come,” Carlson said.

Massachusetts had 18 freshwater beaches closed as of 1 p.m. yesterday, the state Department of Public Health said.

Fourteen were closed for bacteria, four for algae. None were in the local area.

Carlson encourages people to practice safe swimming.

Even if a beach remains open under an advisory, there are precautions people can take, she said.

“Don’t go in if you are sick or your kid is sick,” she said.

Make sure the little ones are wearing swim diapers, too.

“When you come out of the water, wash your hands before you eat,” Carlson said. “Don’t drink the water. I know it’s virtually impossible to get nothing in your mouth, but do your best.”

To view New Hampshireadvisories and more information about bacteria at the beach, visit des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/beaches/index.htm.