Health warning issued for Beaver Lake, Cordova Bay swimming areas

Water at some Greater Victoria beaches might be unsafe for swimming, says Island Health.

The health authority issued warnings for Saanich’s Beaver Lake and Cordova Bay (south of Beach House Restaurant) beaches after tests revealed high levels of bacteria that could put swimmers at risk of illness.

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The bacteria is likely from animal feces, said Island Health’s Moira McLean.

“This happens a few times of year at different areas,” McLean said.

Island Health regularly tests water at public recreational beaches between May and Labour Day. Privately owned beaches — even where there is public access through the owner — and “unofficial” bathing areas on public lands are not tested.

When bacteria levels are found to be high and a risk to beach users, a sign is posted but the area is not closed. The sign will stay up until the risk has passed.

According to the health authority, swimming in contaminated water can result in increased risk of ear, nose and throat infections or gastrointestinal illnesses.

Dozens of people who swam at Thetis Lake two weeks ago became ill after contracting norovirus at the popular beach spot.

While testing of the water did not show elevated bacteria levels, lab results from some of the people who were sick confirmed that they had norovirus.

The virus is highly contagious, transmitted through tiny particles of bodily fluids.

McLean said the incident was “a very good reminder to people to shower after swimming outdoors.”

People are also reminded to stay home from public beaches or recreational spots if they are sick.

Warnings are also in place for Art Mann Park in Duncan, which has long-standing high levels of bacteria and is not considered safe for swimming, and Stowell Lake on Saltspring Island, with moderately high levels of bacteria.

For more information, go to Island Health's beach reports web page.

localnews@timescolonist.com

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