Metro Vancouver to lessen days of beach closures due to poop contamination with new water test

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      The Metro Vancouver regional government is expected to adopt new technology in testing the quality of recreational waters.

      The move is aimed at limiting the number of days of beach closures due to bacterial contamination.

      This means that visitors will potentially have more days on beach, especially during summer.

      Current testing methods require at least 18 hours before results become available.

      The new method called quantitative polymerase chain reaction or qPCR will shorten the turn around time to three hours.

      The regional government monitors the water quality of recreational waters from May to September.

      Online, Metro Vancouver explains that swimming and non-swimming beaches are tested at least once a week.

      Samples are taken from around 120 sites in 40 locations across the region.

      The tests measure levels of E. coli bacteria, an indicator of fecal contamination.

      Test results are provided to regional health authorities and municipalities, which then advise whether beaches are safe.

      The adoption of qPCR is one of six projects proposed for funding under Metro Vancouver’s Water Sustainability Innovation Fund.

      A report to the board of the regional government mentions a request of $200,000 to fund the project in 2022 and 2023.

      The report prepared by Lucas Pitts, a director in the water services department, is included in the board’s agenda on February 25.

      “Since 2011, the average number of days of beach closures is approximately 14 days per season, mostly due to longer turn around times when using current testing and analysis methods,” states an executive summary for the project.

      The new technology will “improve the beach monitoring program through reducing the turn around time between sampling and testing, beach closure and reopening”.

      “By reducing the number of days that beaches are closed throughout the summer, the project promotes a well-maintained natural environment and positive visitor experiences, community engagement and wellbeing,” the summary notes.

      “This in turn improves public perception of the regional beaches and water bodies,” it also states.

      Moreover, “Reducing the number of days that the beaches are closed benefits businesses that rely on the beaches to attract their customers, i.e. rental companies, restaurants, and recreational groups.”