Video: Minister On Beaches, Water Samples

April 2, 2014

Following the U.S. Consulate’s advisory about our beaches, Minister of Health and Environment Trevor Moniz said that Government carries out extensive water sampling twice weekly and they will be taking steps to make the results of these tests available to the public.

On Monday [Mar 31] the U.S. Consulate in Bermuda issued a “Security Message” entitled “Contaminated Beaches” citing the “ongoing dumping of raw sewage off Bermuda’s south coast.”

The advisory from the U.S. Consulate added that “In 2013, as many as five of the beaches were described as ‘unfit for recreational use’ on different occasions based on water samples.”

However, the Government provided the chart below and said the Department of Health “routinely samples and tests seawater from Bermuda’s beaches for Enterococci, a group of bacteria which are used as indicators of faecal pollution.

“Results show that all the beaches tested meet the recommended US EPA Recreational Water quality standard of a geometric mean of less than 35 enterococci per 100 millilitres of water.”

The chart provided by the Health Department is below and the full PDF is here

Bermuda Water Samples 2013 chart

Speaking at a press conference today [Apr 2], Minister Moniz said, “To date, there has not been any water sampling information which has caused us to close the bathing beaches [something which we would do if results showed that contamination levels were over acceptable limits for more than one day].

“This includes those initial test results taken by Laval University [through BIOS] in the spring of 2013,” added the Minister.

“That particular type of pollution event is short in duration, self resolving, limited in scope and driven by very specific weather circumstances [strong SSE winds and waves] and has not recurred since then in the wake of extensive sampling.”

Minister Moniz said he “would like to assure Bermudians and our visitors that the Government of Bermuda takes the issue of seawater quality very seriously.

“Environmental Health will continue to closely monitor Bermuda’s beaches and take water samples for bathing water quality twice each week at major bathing beaches. Any issues that may be raised by that sampling will be reported to the public.”

The Minister also pointed out that we haven’t had a case of typhoid on the island [a disease mentioned in the US Consul’s warning to citizens this week] for over 20 years.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Good afternoon.

Today I am here to reassure the people of Bermuda as well as visitors to our shores that our beaches are safe for swimming and recreational use.

Government carries out extensive water sampling twice weekly and we will be taking steps to make the results of these tests available to the public. In addition, we will provide a public alert system if, due to weather conditions or other factors, there are water quality issues.

A Burden of Illness Study was conducted in 2011/12 with the aim of better understanding the cause of food and water borne infections which case diarrhea, otherwise known as gastroenteritis or ‘G.E’.

The study ultimately found that people were not at risk of G.E. from swimming. Furthermore, we haven’t had a case of typhoid on the island [a disease mentioned in the US Consul’s warning to citizens this week] for over 20 years.

To date, there has not been any water sampling information which has caused us to close the bathing beaches [something which we would do if results showed that contamination levels were over acceptable limits for more than one day]. This includes those initial test results taken by Laval University [through BIOS] in the spring of 2013.

That particular type of pollution event is short in duration, self resolving, limited in scope and driven by very specific weather circumstances [strong SSE winds and waves] and has not recurred since then in the wake of extensive sampling.

The thing I would like people to realize here is that the results of the water sampling are not known instantaneously. Between the sample being taken and the results being known there is a 24 hour period….which allows the bacteria to grow in a Petri dish.

If the results come back with elevated levels of contaminants Department of Health personnel go back to that sampling area as soon as the results are known and test again – by which point typically levels have returned to normal and there is now no need to alert the public or close the beach. That is how quick these episodes can arise and resolve themselves.

However, the Department of Health continues to investigate a mechanism that would make future water test results available to the public as close to real-time as possible.

As I mentioned, we are currently developing an alert system should a situation ever occur where Department of Health staff test a site, find unacceptable levels of contaminants, go back the next day and find unacceptable levels of contaminates for a second day.

This ‘alert system’ may take the form of a flashing notice on the Department of Health/Government website along with media notifications from the Government’s Department of Communication and Information to all local media outlets.

It may, alternatively, take the form of a physical flag or sign on that beach or bathing area.

We also will alert the public if ‘greaseballs’ appear on the beach. Greaseballs manifest as small [marble sized] balls of grey grease mixed with sand deposited at the high tide mark on Paget beaches.

However I must stress that the presence of greaseballs does not necessarily mean the water is contaminated.

The Department of Health will have greaseballs safely removed from the shoreline as soon as they are reported. If members of the public spot greaseballs we ask that they contact Environmental Health at: 278-5333. The Government cannot work in isolation. We also need the public’s assistance.

Furthermore, the Government will be stepping up a PR campaign to alert people on how to properly dispose of kitchen grease as it is the grease that causes the pipeline outfall to stick together and wash inshore.

Environmental Health and the Corporation of Hamilton have met with restaurants and been engaged in a survey of grease traps at source. They have implemented an initiative which has both mechanical upgrades of grease traps and behaviour change components for the kitchens.

Long term options for extending the outfall and for improved sewage treatment are being discussed and include possibly extending the pipeline, which belongs to the Corporation of Hamilton and has been in existence for almost 100 years.

Items currently underway include the following:

  1. 1. Improvement of sewage waste handling at Tynes Bay Septage Facility – investment in new plant is being made;
  2. 2. Improvement in grease collection from City restaurants;
  3. 3. Sewage treatment at KEMH will come online in 2014;
  4. 4. Twice weekly monitoring of bathing water quality is underway by the Department of Health.

The Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring the progress of the KEMH waste water treatment plant. This plant will effectively dilute the 500,000 imperial gallons per day from Hamilton with 100,000 IGPD of highly treated waste water.

The BLDC outfall about 1 km off Clearwater is currently discharging effluent treated to a primary level but is in the process of being upgraded to a Zenon tertiary plant. This is due to be completed later this year.

Dockyard has a fully functional plant that treats very effectively and delivers treated effluent to a bore hole. It will soon be incorporating BOAZ island sewage.

In closing, I would like to assure Bermudians and our visitors that the Government of Bermuda takes the issue of seawater quality very seriously.

Environmental Health will continue to closely monitor Bermuda’s beaches and take water samples for bathing water quality twice each week at major bathing beaches. Any issues that may be raised by that sampling will be reported to the public.

Thank You.

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Comments (30)

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  1. always watching says:

    Thank God I have a pool :)

    • Terry says:

      @ Always watching”.
      I disliked your post because your an ass.
      You have a pool but I imagine you don’t enjoy the serenity and tranquil waters.
      You probably have a large vessel to navigate the waters disposing of your waste.
      Or maybe your just an ass who is always watching.
      Sad.

  2. Lol at us says:

    The US need to check their own water, particularly the west coast. They’re not telling you that the Fukushima incident is poisoning the Pacific Ocean all the way to the west coast.

  3. Coffee says:

    Any amount of fecal matter in our waters should be reason for concern . In other words no positive percentage is acceptable .

    • lets do it says:

      sorry to burst ya dumb bubble, but there is **** floating in all waters around the globe.

  4. CommonSense says:

    Go swimming in Long Island Sound, it will make you glow in the dark! It’s wicked!

  5. Loquatz says:

    A more accurate predictor would be the number of days with a SE wind.

    The statement that they will remove greaseballs from the shore is BS – when they come, they are the size of ball bearings and are widespread.

    LOL, and when will they ask that fishing boat that hangs out off Seabright to seek other hangouts?

  6. big lad says:

    What the minister has said is great. Awesome news, great to know that everything is safe etc…
    What the minister has not said, is when we will receive and apology from those who have slandered our name?
    Or if any action will be taken against those who have defamed us?
    While this may seem like a small matter, people can not simply get away with making comments like those that were made that hold no basis.

  7. STOP the DUMPING of sewage in the ocean period…..
    What about the ROUNDUP (made by MONSANTO the GMO evil company) on all the farms ?

    Bermuda has it’s head in the sand….
    BERMUDIANS need to demand that this stops…..

    • Hmmmm... says:

      Agreed.

    • Onlooker says:

      Please keep fighting for our environment!!

    • jt says:

      I agree that we can do better. But by their own standards the U.S. has to declare the beaches safe and retract their warning, with apology. Does the U.S. have figures to disprove what is presented here? If they do – let’s have them. Also, Bermuda needs to test more frequently and be prepared to test when their is a SE wind.

    • I agree Tony 100% with your suggestion/s…

  8. Really says:

    What about the fish eating all this doodoo?

  9. lucky 7 says:

    I went for a swim today. It was shi**y.

  10. nuffin but the truth says:

    If the Minister of Health and Environment Trevor Moniz had held his Press Conference whilst standing waist deep in the water and been seen swimming in the water than maybe some would have believed him.

  11. Family Man says:

    So if the results are really bad for two days in a row, we’ll put up a little flag on the beach on the third day to warn people against swimming there.

    Sounds like a plan. NOT.

  12. Inquiring minds says:

    Unfortunately wizards first rule applies in spades in Bermuda (read the book lazy)
    While we have been using an outfall and cesspits for over a hundred years people leaving comments appear to be shocked and indignant.
    Clearly either pretend to be an ostrich or probably have difficulty walking and chewing gum.
    Even if we gave about 70 – 100 million to build a state of the art treatment plant we would still need an outfall. Technology does fail and when you have almost a million gallons of sewage a day it will have to go somewhere.if we produced drinking water from the treatment do you think anyone here will put in their tank or pipe to their house? Even though the science can prove it is pure most bermudians won’t touch it.
    Let us leave it to the professionals and support any tax or legislation needed to move us forward as has been happening though politics likely slowed it a little.

    • Eye of Horus says:

      “Let us leave it to the professionals and support any tax or legislation needed to move us forward as has been happening though politics likely slowed it a little.”

      Who are the professionals? What’s the tax? Where’s the legislation? All there is is testing & talk which looks more like avoidance of the inconvenient truth. You seem to be avoiding that also with your drinking water comment. I certainly wouldn’t drink it but better that through the outfall than the crap now. Decades for a proper solution isn’t slow it’s ceased. You mention how far this goes back & there are those who have protested about it & all the other environmental damages on this island for just as long to be slighted. It’s always been out of sight out of mind. Just imagine what Bermuda would be like if we still had the old dump burning trash without an incinerator.

  13. Eye of Horus says:

    There are multitudes of bacteria & viruses that can be transmitted through fecal matter but the test are only measuring Enterococcus. I thought when I clicked for the pdf I’d get the rest of the results & instead got only April to November again. Maybe a mathematician could explain to me how 29 samples within 8 months divides into testing twice a week because I’m not getting it.

    “The Minister also pointed out that we haven’t had a case of typhoid on the island [a disease mentioned in the US Consul’s warning to citizens this week] for over 20 years.”

    The consul never said there was a case of typhoid on island they said there could be an increased risk of catching it from the raw sewage fallout. There is no way of knowing 100% if someone on island may have contracted typhoid somewhere else & brought it here. Typhoid can be mistaking as Salmonella poisoning & in someone with a good immune system they might not go to emergency but their GP. If the GP thought it was salmonella they would give them antibiotics which would destroy the typhoid bacteria & none would be the wiser. I think what the minister means is there hasn’t been an outbreak in 20 years there’s no 100% guarantee there hasn’t been a case which could cause risk.

    I noticed there was no mention of the Hepatitis-A warning from the minister. No need to go swimming to catch this one. This can be contracted from eating infected seafood if not fully cooked. If I had to chose between getting Typhoid & Hepatitis-A I’d chose treatable Typhoid.

  14. Like it 'tis says:

    Glad to hear that the sampling suggests we are not infecting ourselves and others with our continued practice of dumping filthy raw sewage. Please, I urge the minister to get the input from Bermuda stakeholders and qualified experts to address our issue. Perhaps treated water could be fed to residents for the purpose of flushing toilets etc leaving tank water for drinking if that suits most people…just ideas. In short, we need solutions to prevent a self-induced event of a catastrophic nature.

  15. Malachi says:

    Can you imagine telling your kids that it’s ok to wash their hands in the toilet after using it??

  16. 1minute says:

    So is the Minister going to go swimming to show it is safe?

    • That certainly would be a more convincing thing for him and other members of the O.B.A.to do and eliminate all doubts…

  17. 1minute says:

    The breems are getting big on South Shore…

  18. There is …however no excuse for sewage on south shore.