'Multiple sources' may be to blame for Parlee Beach water contamination
Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle says multiple sources could be to blame for the contamination of the watershed at Parlee Beach.
The government is still collaborating with academic and private-sector experts to identify what caused high fecal bacteria levels at the popular beach last summer, he said.
But "from what I'm hearing … there seems to be multiple sources."
On Wednesday, the government announced Canadian recreational water quality guidelines will be adopted for Parlee Beach, starting this summer.
The switch comes after months of controversy over the existing monitoring and reporting system that misinformed beachgoers about the swimming conditions for three weeks, putting them at risk for illness and disease.
Changes will include more frequent testing at more locations, easier to understand signage, and results being posted online.
Asked whether he will consider a moratorium on development in the area until the sources of contamination are identified, Rousselle said he is waiting to hear from the steering committee.
"I have my personal point of view, but I will be waiting for experts' comments, recommendations before making any decisions."
Rousselle declined to divulge his personal opinion. "I will keep it to myself, as I did with the Canadian monitoring," he said, explaining he believed two months ago the province should adopt the federal guidelines.
"When I inherited this file, from my personal perspective, it seemed just reasonable to follow these guidelines, but since 2001, there was this other [provincial] system," he said.
"I'm not a scientist, so I think it was good to take the time" to hear from the steering committee, he added.
Tim Borlase, who owns a home in Pointe-du-Chêne and is a member of a group of concerned citizens called the Red Dot Association Shediac Bay, called adoption of the federal guidelines "a really important first step."
Now the group wants a moratorium on development until the sources of contamination are identified and a mitigation plan is implemented, he said.
In the meantime, the group has come up with some of its own solutions to possible sources of contamination, including dog owners not cleaning up after their pets, said Borlase.
"We thought, well, as a group, we need not only to criticize the government, but we also need to put in place some strategies of our own, so we've sent a proposal on a dog cleanup strategy for different parts of the community of Pointe-du-Chêne and west [Cap-Brulé]," he said.
People walk their dogs at both ends of the beach and in some cases the dogs are not on a leash, said Borlase. "We think this may be a contributor."
The group has also applied for an environmental trust fund project to have proper delineation of the wetlands around Shediac Bay on the GeoNB maps, he said.
"We view the wetlands as kind of the kidneys" that clean the water system, he explained.