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Swim spot testing starts


Summer water quality tests indicating how suitable our most popular beaches, rivers and lakes are for swimming will begin this week.

The Northland Regional Council has been monitoring bacterial levels at popular swimming spots over summer for more than a decade.

John Ballinger, the council’s Environmental Monitoring Programme Manager, says this year’s programme will run until the last week of March.

He says hundreds of samples will be taken from 47 coastal and 12 freshwater sites across the region to check bacterial levels at the Northland beaches, lakes and rivers most often used for swimming, water sports and similar forms of recreation.

Test results will be posted on the NRC website every Friday allowing Northlanders and visiting holidaymakers to make informed decisions about where they swim.

Samples are given one of three grades depending on the number of bacteria in them: green (suitable to swim), amber (potentially unsuitable for swimming) or red (unsuitable for swimming).

As well as being posted online, weekly results are forwarded to all three district councils, the Northland District Health Board and other interested parties, with the health board (DHB) and councils informed of any results showing elevated bacterial levels within 24 hours.

Action by the DHB or affected district council can include further site investigations to establish the source of any contamination, public warnings not to swim or gather shellfish, or putting up permanent warning signs at the worst sites.

Most of the popular spots the regional council monitors are usually safe, although Northland’s high rainfall and hilly terrain meant many could be temporarily contaminated by run-off from the land for several days after heavy rain.

■ Report concerns about water quality on the regional council’s Environmental Hotline 0800 504 639. Check water quality at your favourite spot online at nrc.govt.nz/swimming or freephone 0800 002 004 for more information.

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