The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) is celebrating Healthy & Safe Swimming Week and protecting local water quality is the perfect way to make swimming safe. Think about it. Will a dip in the river or ocean really be that refreshing if it’s filled with bacteria and trash? We think not. The Virginia Department of Health monitors water quality at local beaches throughout the summer and will close any beach with high levels of bacteria. So what can you do? It’s simple. The small choices you make on a daily basis at home and on the go have real impacts on your favorite swimming spot. Here’s how you can join the effort to keep our beaches open this summer:
- Scoop the poop. When your doggy does his or her business, clean it up. Not just when you’re out in public but also in your own backyard. Dog poop is filled with bacteria and gets washed into local waterways when it rains. Yuck!
- Flush only the three P’s: pee, poop and paper. The toilet is not a trash can so don’t treat it like one! Putting anything other than the three P’s in the toilet contributes to sewer overflows and allows untreated sewage to enter local waterways. #Nope
- Don’t feed the geese. Feeding geese and other waterfowl may be fun but it’s also harmful. Just like dogs and people, bird droppings are filled with bacteria. When you feed the birds in one particular spot, they will loiter in the area hoping to get fed again. The result is a lot of goose poop concentrated in one area and a big wave of bacteria going into local waterways when it rains. Besides, bread isn’t even good for birds despite how much they love it. Sound familiar?
- Pump out, don’t dump out. If you have a boat with an on-board sanitary holding tank, have it pumped out at one of the HRSD pump out stations available at more than 100 marinas across 17 counties and cities in Hampton Roads. HRSD provides this service for FREE as part of their Boater Education program.
Now that you know what’s good to do to keep our beaches bacteria-free, take a second to review these safe swim tips for avoiding water-borne illnesses:
- Check for local swimming advisories and beach closures before heading out.
- Avoid swimming for a few days after heavy rainfall.
- Avoid swallowing water when swimming.
- Prevent direct contact of cuts and open wounds with recreational water.
- Avoid swimming in areas where multiple dead fish are found.
- Don’t swim near fishing piers, pipes, drains, and water flowing from storm drains.
- Shower with soap after swimming; showering helps remove potential disease-causing organisms.