MONCTON (GNB) – Senior government officials from the departments of Environment and Local Government, Health, and Tourism, Heritage and Culture met earlier this week to discuss steps to address water quality concerns at Parlee Beach.

“We are taking those concerns seriously and listening to New Brunswickers who are asking for improved communications,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health. “Ensuring residents and visitors can safely enjoy Parlee Beach and recreational water across the province is critical for the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

A steering committee will be formed within the next two weeks, and a formal project charter will be created. The committee will ensure the scope and objectives are clear before engaging a wider working group. The working group’s recommendations will help the government determine what results can be achieved before the next beach season and over the longer term.

“We recognize the current system is not perfect,” said Russell. “It is in everybody’s best interest to have clear and rigorous processes in place to protect public health and inform bathers in the event that water quality should be poor, and this will be examined by the steering committee.”

Officials identified several items that must be addressed before spring 2017, including:

  • evaluating the appropriateness of the current water quality rating system used at Parlee Beach and updating the public as necessary;
  • developing a robust water quality sampling program to identify both point and non-point sources of contamination throughout the watershed;
  • compiling a recreational water quality database with historical water quality results;
  • exploring whether a provincial recreational water quality program is necessary;
  • enhancing public communication;
  • examining beach best management practices;
  • incorporating a real-time rain gauge at Parlee Beach to aid in water quality management.

“We are also aware that addressing the water quality issues in the long term will require pinpointing the sources of contamination of the water at Parlee Beach and in the Northumberland Strait,” said Russell.