Oak Bluffs health officials closed Inkwell Beach and Pay Beach on Tuesday after water tests Monday showed higher than acceptable levels of bacteria. The two beaches along Sea View Avenue are among the most popular swimming spots in Oak Bluffs at the height of the summer season.
Water samples taken from Inkwell Beach on Monday showed levels of enterococci bacteria more than four times higher than state regulations allow. Samples taken on Pay Beach showed bacteria levels more than five times the allowable limit. Enterococci is an indicator bacteria. While not usually harmful, it indicates the presence of other harmful bacteria in the water.
Health agent Shirley Fauteaux said she will test the water again on Wednesday. Results will not be returned until a day later, so the two beaches will remain closed until at least Thursday.
Madeiras Beach near Sailing Camp Park in Lagoon Pond, and Marinelli Beach, adjacent to the East Chop Beach Club are again open to swimmers. Both were closed in recent weeks because of high bacteria counts.
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 they can occasionally be more serious, especially in sensitive populations such as those with weakened immune systems, children, and the elderly.