Oak Bluffs beaches reopen, bacteria counts down

The Inkwell and Pay Beaches in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Alison Shaw

Oak Bluffs health officials Thursday morning reopened Inkwell Beach and Pay Beach in Oak Bluffs, closed since Tuesday because of high bacteria counts.

Oak Bluffs health agent Shirley Fauteaux told The Times that the results of water samples taken Wednesday from the two popular beaches along Sea View Avenue showed bacteria levels had fallen within the acceptable limits defined by state regulations.

The water tests detect enterococci, an indicator organism that signals the presence of more harmful bacteria. If more than 104 colony forming units per 100 milliliters of water (104 cfu/100ml) are measured in a single day water sample, the beach must be closed to swimming.

On Monday, tests shows the level of bacteria at Inkwell Beach as 450 cfu/100ml, but on Wednesday, the levels had fallen to 10 cfu/100ml.

On Monday, Pay Beach measured 581 cfu/100ml, and fell to 51 cfu/100ml in Wednesday’s test.

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.