THE Environment Protection Authority Victoria says beachgoers should check its forecasting service or sign up for its SMS service before going to the beach on the Mornington Peninsula this summer.
EPA chief environmental scientist Dr Andrea Hinwood said the Beach Report, which came on stream last Sunday (1 December), provided information about water quality in Port Phillip. The service ends on the Labour Day weekend next March.
The water quality report comes two weeks after South East Water warned that sewage spills into Tanto Creek may have polluted beaches south of Mills Beach, Mornington (“Beach warning” The News 26/11/19).
“Our beaches are great places to visit, but they are also complex ecosystems. In certain conditions they can be home to types of bacteria that pose health risks to swimmers,” Dr Hinwood said.
Dr Hinwood said more stringent water quality standards, being used for the first time this summer, would help ensure that EPA’s Beach Report was more protective of health.
“The new standards take a precautionary approach to protecting public health. They rely on scientific studies linking microbial levels in water with the actual risk of illness,” she said.
“This is good news for swimmers and means they can have an even higher degree of confidence in our forecasts.”
A common swimmer-related illness is gastroenteritis. Children, the elderly and people with vulnerable immune systems are at the highest risk of getting ill from water-borne germs.
EPA’s forecasts for 36 Port Phillip beaches are published on the Yarra & Bay website, as well as on Twitter by following @EPA_Victoria.
On the website people can also sign up to EPA’s free SMS service to receive a text when the water at selected beaches is forecast to have poor quality.
Dr Hinwood said people should see a doctor if they have a suspected illness after swimming.
The new water quality standards have been introduced as a result of the State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP) (Waters), which came into effect in 2018.
Last year, Santa Casa (Queenscliff) beach was ranked the highest for good water quality in Port Phillip.
Rosebud and Portsea were the only peninsula beaches included in the EPA’s top 10 cleanest beaches for last summer.