Notte beach reopens after dramatic drop in bacteria levels

Notte beach reopens after dramatic drop in bacteria levels

NORTH PROVIDENCE - A planned July 1 reopening of the town beach at Notte Park was not looking good after it was blocked off three weeks ago due to overwhelmingly high bacteria levels.

But to town officials' delight, a dramatic drop in bacteria counts allowed them to take down the yellow tape and "no swimming" signs just in time for the start of the 2013 summer season on Monday. They also had lifeguards in place for the long awaited reopening of the beach to swimmers.

Town Recreation Department workers heard from the Rhode Island Department of Health late last week that a second requested water test at the Wenscott Reservoir had shown bacteria levels dropping from 600 "colony-forming units" of enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of water three weeks ago to just 16.9 parts per 100 for the same amount of water, according to Mayor Charles Lombardi.

Department of Health spokeswoman Dara Chadwick could not immediately confirm the bacteria count of 16.9. The number is well below the Department of Health's upper limit of 61 enterococci for keeping a swimming area open.

"The beach water is very good," said Lombardi. "I'm really excited."

Though many might be surprised by such a sharp reduction in bacteria, said Lombardi, he was not. The mayor insisted in a Breeze story last week that the very high bacteria levels were not from geese, as most believed to be the case in past years, but from heavy rainfall and resulting runoff during the month of June.

Town officials called in representatives from the Department of Agriculture last year to take the more extreme measure of killing geese after efforts at repeatedly scaring them away had failed to keep them away and bacteria levels remained too high for swimming. Health officials blame goose droppings in part for high bacteria levels in water, but there are many other factors that can also contribute.

Health risks from ingesting enterococci bacteria range from mild to severe, according to health officials.

Even with the earlier high bacteria counts three weeks ago, town officials like interim Recreation Director Sherry Arlia remained confident that the beach would reopen because they weren't seeing the same signs of bacteria pollution they'd seen in the past, including foamy suds along the water's edge.