The Vancouver Island Health Authority has stopped monitoring water quality at public beaches and is requesting municipalities take over sampling.
The health authority informed municipalities on the Island about the impending shift of responsibility last summer. Some took on the task right away, while others are still taking their time, said Joanne Lum, a senior environmental health officer with Island Health. Sampling bottles and requisition forms were made available for the municipalities but it’s a matter of someone picking them up and taking on the water sampling, she said.
Areas with historically bad water quality have been quicker to take on the sampling, Lum noted. For example, Elk/Beaver Lake water quality testing has been taken on by the Capital Regional District as the region has had issues in the past.
The District of Saanich is still in the process of taking on the water sampling at beaches in the district, she said.
Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for Saanich, noted health advisory signs have been posted at the regional beaches to let beach-goers know that the water quality is no longer being monitored by Island Health.
According to McLeod, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes has also sent a letter to the CRD board asking them to consider providing water sampling services for all regional beaches.
Lum pointed out that Island Health opted to discontinue the routine sampling of water quality at local beaches because no other health authorities in B.C. were still doing it. The responsibility is being shifted to the municipalities so that Island Health can focus more on the other services it offers.
Island Health will still be involved in the water testing process and will provide guidance where needed, Lum explained, but the municipalities will need to collect the water samples. Island Health will also continue to pay for the lab services, analyze the results, post the results of the labs on the website and make recommendations about safety advisories.
Island Health acknowledges that this is a transition year and that the seasonal water sampling will be lacking in some municipalities, said Lum. The health authority has been helping where they can — especially for large events such as Swim Fest, which took place in Banfield Park on July 21. Water testing hadn’t been started there, she explained, so Island Health tested the water on a tight deadline to have the results available in time for the event.
The health authority will continue to work in partnership with the municipalities that didn’t take on the water sampling this year so that they are prepared for next summer. If residents are concerned about water quality at a specific beach, they can voice their concerns to their municipality or to Island Health.
Information about water quality is still available on the Island Health website.