Parlee Beach tourist season approaches with no action on water quality

1 / 4
Parlee Beach tourist season approaches with no action on water quality

Tourist season is fast approaching and people who live near Parlee Beach are worried the province has still done nothing to clean up the water.

Last summer, fecal bacteria levels at Parlee Beach were high enough on 45 days to pose a health risk to children and the elderly.

But beachgoers and residents were only informed the water quality was poor on 28 days.

- 'Northumberland toilet bowl' can't bear more development, residents coalition says 

In April, the province announced that starting in the summer it will implement the more strict Canadian recreational water quality guidelines at Parlee Beach.

But another promise made that day by Minister of Environment Serge Rousselle was that the government would announce "in the near future" some mitigation planned for this summer.

Only three weeks before Parlee Beach is set to open, no plans to improve the quality of the water have been announced.

"The testing is going to give us the results we already know," said Natasha Bell of Cap-Pelé. "Bad water."

Bell is a member of a recently formed coalition called Save Wetlands Water and Tourism.

She said the more stringent water testing and better signage for people hoping to swim at Parlee Beach are a good start, but there are other areas, such as Murray Corner, in need of attention.

"Currently, we haven't heard any news ... in terms of what their strategy is for the summer," said Bell.

It's the lack of information that is frustrating many residents hoping to hear the cause of the water problems in their area, so they can be fixed.

Lift station may be problem

When it comes to causes, Arthur Melanson, a coalition member, points his finger across the Parlee Beach parking lot at a small shed.

"We think the issue here is ... a lift station for Parlee Beach sewer system," he said.

Melanson said sewage from the beach's canteens and restaurants flows through the small station.

If it's not functioning properly, he said, overflow drains into a lagoon that runs along the parking lot and empties in the ocean.

He said members of his group notified the province, and employees came to take samples last week.

"The process is they are being fed some information but we're not getting any response back," he said.

A steering committee is expected to submit a report on the causes of fecal contamination in Shediac Bay before June 2018, but Melanson wants to see something done before then.

"It's just they are putting it back and putting it back instead of coming out and making a decision," he said. "Are they really interested in protecting the water or is it just playing the game?"

He and his group suggested a moratorium on development along the coast, for anything within 500 metres of a wetland or water, but he said there's been no response from the government.

Government responds

An official with the Department of the Environment said in an email that work is going on to identify the course of bacterial contamination in the watershed to find ways to eliminate or reduce it.

Marc André Chiasson said the government will do take immediate mitigation steps this summer. They will be announced soon, he said.

The department said it will be analyzing another round of samples for E. coli and other parameters such as enterococcus, dissolved oxygen and conductivity.