Paddleboarders at Crescent Beach last Wednesday. Crescent has low levels of bacteria

Semiahmoo water fine, but itch persists

Bacterial counts at White Rock and Crescent Beach are among the lowest in decade

Water quality at White Rock and Crescent beaches is among the best its been in a decade, according to an analysis by Peace Arch News, but one itching problem isn’t going away.

Metro Vancouver tests beach water around the region each week from May to September, and bacterial counts at all Peninsula beaches have been falling in recent years, according to water quality data examined by PAN. This year alone, counts are well below the 10-year average.

So far in 2016, Crescent has an average count of 12 E.coli per 100 millilitres, compared to last year’s average of 16 and the 10-year average of 23.

At Crescent Beach north, the average sample this year is 14, while last year’s average was 17 and the 10-year average is 24.

Health authorities deem water unsafe for swimming if the bacterial count reaches 200.

In White Rock, this year’s average at East Beach is 18, while west of the pier it’s 26. The combined 10-year average is 33.

By comparison, the most recent sample of Vancouver’s English Bay was 42, Kitsilano Beach 29 and Centennial Beach 10.

“We’re quite proud of the water, it’s obviously our biggest asset. It’s important to us,” White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said.

In recent years, White Rock has concentrated on sweeping streets and cleaning catch basins to prevent debris flowing into the storm sewers, said Baldwin.

“Unless you clean it out, it just washes down onto the beach. We’ve been watching that pretty closely and working at it quite strongly to keep those catch basins and the gutters and so on as clean as we can.”

Baldwin acknowledged the city has had major incidents that affected water quality – a flood in 1999 and power outages at pump stations. But he said generators are now in place to power pumps in an emergency.

Darren Marshall, owner of Feral Boardsports on Marine Drive, has seen an increasing number of people drawn to White Rock beaches, noting he started his business five years ago with six paddle boards and now has more than 40.

“People love it,” he said. “When the tide’s out people get so much room for themselves, whereas if you’re on any other beach you literally feel like you’re crammed on a busy day – you’ve got somebody stuck on your shoulders.”

Owen Croy, manager of parks for the City of Surrey, attributed Crescent’s good numbers to fewer septic tanks, a good city sewer system and fresh water flow.

“We have considerable amounts of fresh water coming in to Mud Bay, both from the Nicomekl and the Serpentine. We don’t have too many sources of pollution in terms of sewage in either of those rivers.”

What is persisting at Crescent, however, is swimmer’s itch.

First found at Surrey’s beach in 2001, the itch is caused by a parasite in water snails. In hot months, when the parasite is present, it can land on human skin and cause a rash.

“The snail’s not going away. It appears to be here to stay,” Croy said.

A decade-old proposal to remove snails from strategic locations was denied by federal authorities due to concern for “potential damage to the fragile intertidal ecosystem,” according to a city report. Surrey has instead opted to manage people’s reaction to the parasite by installing signs and showers at Beecher Street and Blackie Spit.

Croy said swimmers can reduce the chance of infection by applying water-proof sunscreen before entering the water, drying off with a towel immediately after exiting the water and showering with fresh water as soon as possible. Avoiding areas with high concentrations of snails can also help.

But so far this year the city hasn’t received a complaint about swimmer’s itch, said Croy.

“It’s more or less an inconvenience as opposed to a major health problem,” he said. “If people use the proper precautions… you’re going to be able to deal with it.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Left, Rowena Leivo early on in her volunteer career with the South Surrey/White Rock Food Bank. Right, Leivo in the food bank Tuesday. (Contributed photos)
After 34 years, ‘The Boss’ retires from South Surrey Food Bank volunteer gig

Rowena Leivo, 90, spent a third of her life volunteering at the food bank

The Surrey Eagles are currently seeking billet families for its players in advance of the 2020-‘21 BC Hockey League season. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for BCHL season

COVID-19 pandemic has made finding homes for players difficult: billet co-ordinator

Matthew Campbell, director of the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank, stands amongst a large amount of non-perishable food and household items being stored inside the Pacific Community Church. This year’s ‘Halloween For Hunger’ food drive, put on by students at Clayton Heights, will go to benefit the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Clayton Heights Secondary kicks off annual ‘Halloween for Hunger’ event

Students to collect much-needed items for food bank

Ali Watson in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…,” which plays until Nov. 8. (photo: Moonrider Productions)
Viewers of Arts Club’s streaming plays support Surrey Civic Theatres

Company’s ‘bubble method’ of theatre production means just 50 in-person tickets for each performance

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Most Read