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Jun 11, 2015 6:51 PM

NH1 News Investigates: Rye beach tide pools closed for high bacteria levels


RYE - Advisory Signs are posted along Rye’s town teach, warning swimmers, “the tide pools currently aren’t suitable for wading or swimming because of high bacteria levels.”

Noreen Donlon lives in Rye and has been going to the beach since she was a young girl.

“I was surprised. I’ve never seen it up before,” said Donlon. She came to the beach with two friends who were visiting for the first time.

“I kind of freaked,” said Natalie Hartel of Andover, Massachusetts.

During the summertime, the NH Department of Environmental Services tests water quality at all of the beaches. Rye Beach tests came back normal last week, but Rye town officials decided to do additional testing after high levels of bacteria were detected in the beach’s tide pools last year.

A septic sniffing dog, brought to Rye Beach, confirmed it was human waste contaminating the water. Town officials don’t know the source. The state’s DES deemed nearby Parson’s Creek “impaired” several years ago and Rye town officials are trying to determine if the fecal bacteria that is contaminating the water, is coming from the creek. Outdated or broken septic systems could be contributing to the problem.

Diseases such as gastroenteritis and Giardia can be transmitted to swimmers who have ingested contaminated water. Symptoms include stomach cramps, skin irritation, nausea, and diarrhea.

“I would say watch your child. If they’re ingesting the water, you may want to take them to the doctor or hospital,” said Kim Reed, Rye Planning and Zoning Administrator.

Reed said, so far this season, no tests that have come back positive for fecal bacteria. But the town selectmen decided to put the signs up as a precaution to warn swimmers.

“When bacteria levels are high, you’ll see masses of algae especially along tide pool areas. That’s what we want people to be careful of because there might be bacteria there,” said Reed.

Josh Steffen was visiting the beach with his young son who was playing in the water. He hadn’t noticed the signs that are posted at all of the public access points.

“I don’t know if I want my 3 year old playing in contaminated water. That would be bad,” he said.

Joe Kelley, a surfer who visits Rye Beach nearly every day, said he’s never gotten sick from the water and he has no concerns about its quality.

“The waves are good and the weather is good,” he said.

Town officials promise to test even more aggressively this summer, hoping to pinpoint the source of the contamination.


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