Recent beach closures have been a cause of concern in Hampton Roads. As you make your Labor Day plans, become educated on beach monitoring and enjoying the beach safely. Protect your health while swimming at the beach. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommends the following simple steps to protect your health while swimming at the beach:
- Observe Swimming Advisories–do not enter the water at a beach when swimming advisory signs are posted.
- Avoid swallowing water or having water forced up your nose when swimming; natural waters may contain disease-causing organisms that can cause gastrointestinal or neurological illnesses.
- Avoid swimming for a few days after heavy rainfall; bacteria levels are likely to be high and disease-causing organisms are more likely to be present after rainfall due to pollution from land runoff and other sources.
- Prevent direct contact of cuts and open wounds with recreational water; natural waters may contain disease-causing organisms that may cause skin infections.
- Avoid swimming in areas where dead fish are present; dead fish may indicate that water conditions are poor or hazardous materials are in the water. Please contact the Department of Environmental Quality (804-698-4000) if you observe a fish kill.
- Don’t swim if you are ill or have a weakened immune system; some organisms are opportunistic and may only cause illness when you are already ill or your immune system is weakened.
- Shower with soap after swimming; showering helps remove potential disease-causing organisms.
- Swim away from fishing piers, pipes, drains, and water flowing from storm drains onto a beach.
- Do not dispose of trash, pet waste, or dirty diapers on the beach. Use proper receptacles.
Bacteria levels in beach water are monitored at 46 public beaches in Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean during the swimming season (May-September). Water samples are collected weekly by Local Health Departments and analyzed by local laboratories for enterococci bacteria. If bacteria levels exceed Virginia’s Water Quality Standard of 104 colony forming units (cfu)/100 mL of water, a swimming advisory is issued. To stay up to date on beach conditions, follow VDH’s Beach Monitoring Program on Twitter (@VDHBeach) to receive notifications of the status of current swimming advisories, or log on to: https://twitter.com/VDHBeach.