Government of New Brunswick

Are all Provincial Park beaches tested?

No.  At this time only Parlee and Murray beach have an established sampling and monitoring program in place.  As recommended in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality, all New Brunswick Provincial Parks that have a designated swimming area will have an Environmental Health and Safety Survey completed in 2017 and a risk assessment will be completed.

For more information on the current status of these beaches, please visit the Beach Water Quality Monitoring Advisories page.

Are other beaches in New Brunswick tested?

While some samples are collected at some beaches, there is no formal recreational water monitoring program in New Brunswick.  The locations sampled are typically public beaches that Regional Health Protection branch offices have identified as being popular recreational destinations.

Who ensures beach water quality is monitored at Parlee and Murray Beach?

The Department of Environment and Local Government is responsible for the oversight of sample collection and ensuring that proper training on collecting samples is provided. Only personnel that have received proper training are allowed to collect water samples at these beaches. The water samples are then sent to an independent, and accredited, laboratory for analysis. A Medical Officer of Health receives and interprets the monitoring results.

What bacteria does the province test for at Parlee and Murray Beach?

Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococci are tested as an indicator of faecal contamination. 

What is considered a safe level of bacteria in recreational water?

The Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality have established guideline values that strike a balance between potential health risks and the benefits of recreational water use in terms of physical activity and enjoyment.  There is always a slight risk of health effects when swimming, just as there are risks associated with other common activities, such as driving your car.

The Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality consider the water safe for swimming when bacteria levels are below the guideline values listed in the table below.  In these cases the water is open and suitable for swimming.

If any of the guideline values below are exceeded, it is no longer considered an acceptable risk, and the public is warned that the water is not suitable for swimming

Enterococci

E. coli

A geometric mean of most recent five samples equal to or less than 35 enterococci/100 ml

A geometric mean of most recent five samples equal to or less than 200 E. coli/100 ml

A single-sample maximum equal to or less than 70 enterococci/100 ml

A single-sample maximum equal to or less than 400 E. coli/100 ml

What does a “No Swimming” advisory mean?  Am I still allowed to swim?

A “No Swimming” advisory means that the bacterial levels found in the water exceed the guidelines values established in the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality.

The beach is not closed. However, swimming in waters with bacteria levels above the Guideline Values increase the risk of illness.  The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends avoiding activities that are likely to cause some water to be swallowed, such as when the body or face are immersed or frequently wetted by spray.  It is also recommended that people who have open sores or wounds should avoid contact with the water.

The beach would only be closed to the public where evidence suggests that continued operation poses a significant public health risk.  Examples of situations that may warrant a beach closure are:

  • suspicion that the area is responsible for a waterborne disease outbreak;
  • a sewage, chemical or oil spill; or
  • sharp objects/debris or other public safety hazards

Will I get sick if I recently swam in waters where there is now a warning?

Swimming in waters with bacteria levels above the Guideline Values does not mean that you will get sick, but it increases the risk.  

Possible health risks of swimming in water with a high Enterococci or E. coli count could include skin irritation or infection, upper respiratory illness, and gastrointestinal upset.

What should I do if I think I am getting sick?

You can get sick from a variety of exposures in your environment (contact with other sick people, contaminated food, contaminated environments etc).  If you experience symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps or rash that are not resolving you should seek attention from a health professional.

How can the water be rated as safe one day and unsafe the next? Why does it change?

It is common to find E. coli and Enterococci bacteria in surface water and it is normal for these levels to fluctuate.  Certain environmental conditions such as rainfall can play a role in influencing water quality as well as other sources including discharged sewage, storm water runoff, animal waste, and even through swimmers themselves. 

Why is a No Swimming Advisory issued due to rainfall?

Heavy rainfall creates surface runoff that can introduce bacteria from the environment into the water.  

Issuing a pre-emptive “No swimming” advisory for short periods immediately after rainfall events is a way of helping to limit swimmer exposure to possible bacterial contamination. 

Why does rainfall not trigger an advisory at Murray Beach like it does at Parlee Beach?

Since 2001, rainfall levels that exceeded 10mm within a 24 hour period required a “poor” rating to automatically be triggered at Parlee Beach. This was based on water quality data that was available at that time that showed a clear link between heavy rainfall and poor water quality at Parlee Beach. Public Health considered it important to include this information in the new Parlee Beach Water Quality Monitoring Protocol that is now in effect.

At Murray Beach, there is currently a lack of evidence to suggest that after rainfall events water quality is impacted to a level that would cause an exceedance of Guideline Values. However, rainfall data is intended to be collected at Murray Beach this swimming season and will evaluated to determine if a relationship can be established. 

Why is Murray Beach only sampled three times per week, when Parlee Beach is sampled daily?

The Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality recommend monitoring of swimming waters at a minimum frequency of once per week during the swimming season, with increased monitoring recommended for beaches that are highly frequented. Similarly, under certain scenarios, a reduction in the recommended sampling frequency may be justified. Given that over 350,000 people visit Parlee Beach each year, and that water quality results are of concern, a sampling frequency of 7 days per week is appropriate.

As recommended by the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality, an Environmental Health and Safety Survey (EHSS) was completed at Murray Beach. The information obtained from the EHSS was used to conduct a risk assessment and develop the current sampling and monitoring protocol.

How long does it take for the water samples to be tested and analyzed?

Once samples are collected, it takes approximately 48 hours to receive results.  Samples must be correctly labelled, packed and transported to the laboratory. Once received at the laboratory, the samples must be registered, prepared and analyzed. Results are then documented and reported to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for interpretation. 

Who can I contact if I have any questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns about the water quality monitoring or testing at New Brunswick’s beaches, please contact the Department of Health.