Look before you leap into waterways

Photo: File.

Toi Te Ora Public Health is reminding people to be aware of water contamination this summer to minimise the risk of tummy bugs, sore throats and skin infections.

Swimming and collecting shellfish is a favourite pastime for many and while it is safe to do so in many of the Bay of Plenty’s estuaries, beaches, rivers and lakes – it’s important to know when it is not safe, how to recognise signs of water contamination, and where to find local warnings.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Jim Miller says our regional and district/city councils keep a close eye on the water quality of our bathing spots throughout summer, regularly testing for bacterial contamination from human or animal faeces, and for bacteria that causes blue-green algae or algal blooms.

“If a recreational water site is found to be significantly contaminated with risk to public health, Toi Te Ora informs the public by issuing a health warning and the local council erects warning signs.”

Current local health warnings can be found at: www.toiteora.govt.nz/health_warnings

However, testing points are limited and Jim says it’s important to check any water before you use it.

“The Bay of Plenty and Lakes region is a big place with lots of opportunities for using the water. Look before you leap – if the water looks discoloured, smells unusual, or if there is scum or leathery mats of black or brown algae on the surface of lakes or on the beds of rivers, swim or play somewhere else and don’t eat shellfish from the area.

“After rainfall, water is likely to be contaminated with animal faeces from rural and urban run-off. As a precaution, avoid swimming in rivers, streams, lakes or estuaries for 48 hours after heavy or prolonged rainfall.”

Jim says it is also best to avoid swimming and collecting shellfish near pipes or culverts that run down to a waterway where stormwater is discharged, and near wharves and marinas.