Paper Mill Dam beaches on both sides of the Somass River in Port Alberni have been closed due to high bacterial counts discovered in the water.
Both the First Nation Health Authority and City of Port Alberni have issued advisories closing the beaches to swimming.
The Tseshaht First Nation closed the Somass Dam Beach (Hector Road side of Papermill Dam) on Wednesday morning (Aug. 7) to all in-water activities.
“We are working with the FNHA to find the source of the issue,” a post read on the Tseshaht Facebook page.
A water sample taken July 25 at the Hector Road side of Papermill Dam last week showed 3,400 parts per 100 mL (colony forming units, or CFU) of E. coli and other coliforms. That is far higher than Island Health standards of 400 parts per 100 mL, or Canadian drinking water standards of 200 CFU.
Tests will be conducted on the Falls Street side of the park too, under direction of the City of Port Alberni. That side falls within city limits.
“The city will undertake and submit water samples for testing and will keep an advisory in effect until such time as Island Health is satisfied with results,” city CAO Tim Pley said in a press release.
“At that time, the city will communicate to the public that the advisory has been lifted.”
The City of Port Alberni lifted an advisory at Canal Waterfront Park (Canal Beach) on Friday after that beach was plagued with high readings of enterococci (the same bacterial family as E. coli, except it occurs in salt water). Readings taken at Polly’s Point, around the corner from Canal Beach, were within acceptable levels last week, Pley noted in an earlier story.