The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health has issued a swimming and wading advisory for the Chesapeake Bay between Rockbridge Road and Starfish Road. Recent testing conducted by the Health Department showed that bacteria levels in the water exceeded the State Water Quality Standards. The advisory does not affect the Virginia Beach oceanfront or resort area.
Recreational waters are monitored for bacteria using indicator organisms such as Enterococcus, the indicator of choice in estuarine and marine waters.
“The coastal waters of Virginia are generally very clean, and we test them weekly from May through September,” said Venita Newby-Owens, M.D., Director of the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health. “On the occasions when waters fail to meet the standards, we need to protect public health by letting residents and visitors know.”
Signs will be posted on the beach between Rockbridge and Starfish roads to alert the public of the swimming and wading advisory. The signs will read:
WARNING! SWIMMING ADVISORY
Bacteria levels do not meet state water quality standards
Swimming and wading are prohibited until further notice
Virginia Beach has conducted these tests since the mid-1970s. Health officials will continue testing the site until the water quality meets the state water quality standards. When the sampling test results meet the standards, the signs will be removed.
Enterococci are a group of organisms used to determine the extent of the fecal contamination of recreational waters. While they do not cause illness, scientific studies indicate that their presence is closely correlated to the presence of other disease-causing organisms. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standard have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness, as well as skin, eye and respiratory infections.
“We encourage the public to protect their health by complying with this advisory,” said Newby-Owens. “Typically an advisory of this nature is temporary and will be withdrawn once the bacteria levels have returned to safe levels.”
The results of this and all other sampling are located on the Virginia Department of Health Web site at http://www.vdh.state.va.us/epidemiology/DEE/BeachMonitoring.
For additional information, contact the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health at (757) 518-2700.