Water samples taken from the water off Pay Beach in Oak Bluffs on July 11 tested well below the allowable limits for harmful bacteria. Town health officials will re-open the beach for swimming today, July 12.
The tests showed less than 10 colony forming units per 100 milliliters (cfu/100ml) of enterococci, an indicator bacteria which signals the presence of harmful organisms. State regulators require beaches to be closed if the level of entorococci bacteria exceeds 104 cfu/100ml.
Health officials closed Pay Beach to swimming on the evening of July 10, after water samples, taken from the popular stretch of beach along Sea View Avenue on July 9, showed higher than allowable bacteria levels.
Enterococci are a group of bacterial species within the streptococcus genus, some of which (e.g. streptococcus faecalis) are typically found in human and animal intestines and are therefore present in sewage.
The Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health advises that swimming in polluted water can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, cough, runny nose, and sneezing; eye and ear symptoms including irritation, earache, and itchiness; dermatological symptoms like skin rash and itching; and flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills.
Most of these symptoms are minor most of the time but can occasionally be more serious, especially in sensitive populations, such as immuno-compromised children and the elderly.