Inkwell beach reopened to swimmers

Updated 4 pm, Thursday

Inkwell Beach on Seaview Avenue in Oak Bluffs was reopened to swimming at 2 pm Thursday.

The beach was closed Wednesday due to high levels of bacteria.

Dave Caron, chairman of the board of health confirmed the beach was reopened in a telephone call with The Times at approximately 3:40 pm, Thursday.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, a Times reporter saw swimmers in the water and no visible signs announcing a beach closure. Health agent Shirley Fauteux was not in her office when The Times called to confirm whether the closure had been lifted.

Mr. Caron has taken it upon himself to provide updates to The Times. Ms. Fauteux has been uncommunicative and uncooperative when contacted and asked to provide information about beach closures.

Mr. Caron first anounced the Inkwell Beach closure in a phone message left with The Times Wednesday afternoon. He said that water samples showed levels of enterococci bacteria that exceeded state standards.

Mr. Caron said the water samples at Inkwell Beach were 159 bacteria colonies per 100 milliliters of water. The state limit is 104 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Mr. Caron said the beach is closed until further notice. The latest test results are not expected to be available until later today.

Last Friday, Mr. Caron called The Times to report that a small part of the Lagoon Pond shoreline nearest the temporary drawbridge was closed to swimming due to high bacteria levels.

Yesterday, The Times telephoned Shirley Fauteux, Oak Bluffs full-time health agent, at her town office to ask whether that shoreline was reopened. Ms. Fauteux, who is paid an annual salary of $68,055, refused to answer any questions.

Ms. Fauteux referred questions to Mr. Caron, an elected official and hospital pharmacy director. Asked why, as the town’s health agent responsible for collecting water samples and making beach-closing decisions, she could not answer questions about those issues, she again referred a Times reporter to Mr. Caron and hung up.

Mr. Caron later called to report that the Lagoon Pond shoreline tested within normal limits this week and is now open to swimmers.

Beach closings have been a regular occurrence along the Massachusetts coast this summer. Last week, Lambert’s Cove Beach in West Tisbury was closed to swimming for one day. During one busy August week, 33 beaches were closed to swimming, including several on Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), enterococci bacteria are an indicator organism that may mean water is contaminated by fecal coliform bacteria. High levels of bacteria can cause skin irritation, vomiting, or diarrhea.