Water at Pasir Ris Beach contains bacteria also found in human faeces

May Wong, Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 08;

SINGAPORE: Based on a new international water quality guideline by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Pasir Ris Beach has been identified as one where swimming would not be recommended. However, activities like canoeing and kayaking can continue.

The beach scored a fair grading because it contains an abnormal level of a type of bacteria traditionally found in human faeces and warm-blooded animals.

Accidentally consuming the water at the beach could cause gastro intestinal illnesses and conjunctivitis.

For the first time, advisory signages against swimming will be erected at Pasir Ris Beach from Thursday.

However, authorities said that does not mean the water quality at Pasir Ris has worsened. It is simply because the new WHO standard have now become more stringent.

The other five beaches, like Sentosa Island scored a "Very Good" grading, while East Coast Park and Changi were rated "Good".

The National Environment Agency, which monitors the water quality on a weekly basis, will take necessary actions for Pasir Ris Beach after a year-long study.

The new WHO water quality guidelines apply to all water bodies like the reservoirs which are open for recreational use. - CNA/vm

Fancy a dip? Water quality's fine in most areas
NEA tests show it's good in all spots except Pasir Ris; fish from its farms are safe
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 31 Jul 08;

BATHERS may have been warned not to swim off Pasir Ris Beach yesterday, but doing so in other areas is fine.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which carried out tests at several other spots, said water quality at Seletar Island, Sembawang Park, Changi and East Coast Park is 'good'.

Sentosa came out tops - the water quality at its beaches was deemed 'very good'.

Water quality at all functioning reservoirs here was also tested and given the thumbs-up.

Only that at the Marina Reservoir, which is still under development, was not cleared.

The NEA decided to warn against swimming off Pasir Ris Beach because high levels of bacteria normally found in the faeces of warm-blooded animals were found in the water.

It said the action was taken because Singapore has adopted new, more stringent water-quality standards based on World Health Organisation guidelines, and not because water quality in the area was worsening.

It is not clear where the bacteria in the water comes from, NEA said.

Mr Tan Qwee Hong, its pollution control director, said there could be a number of possible reasons, which will be studied and determined by next April.

'It could be riverine activities, storm water run-off after heavy rains, or even animal or sea bird waste, but it is not from permanent point sources such as treated effluent or sewage flowing into the sea,' he said.

A report commissioned by Malaysia and Singapore in 2006, however, said several rivers leading to the Johor Strait caused pollution from untreated sewage, and wastewater from industries and agriculture at source.

Meanwhile, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said yesterday that seafood from seven fish farms off Pasir Ris Beach is safe to eat despite the levels of bacteria found there.

The farms produce fish such as snapper and sea bass, as well as crab and other shellfish.

AVA said it conducts regular checks for microbes in the water which can cause poisoning in fish, and none is present.

Swim at your own risk
Pasir Ris Beach has high bacteria count but a quick splash won’t hurt
Sheralyn Tay, Today Online 31 Jul 08;
Additional reporting by Ooi Boon Keong

A PICNIC on the sand is fine, but rule out a dip in the sea if you’re hanging out at Pasir Ris Beach this weekend.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued an advisory that cautions against swimming, wakeboarding and waterskiing in the waters there because of “high bacteria content” — specifically, the enterococcus bacteria found in human and animal waste.

The good news? Five other popular beaches around Singapore have been given a clean bill of health, based on the NEA’s new guidelines on recreational water quality for beaches and reservoirs.

Its grading system is based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines revised in 2003. Asked why it took Singapore almost five years to roll out its own guidelines, the NEA said it had to localise the WHO standards and collect three years’ worth of weekly data first.

The enterococcus bacteria can cause stomach pain, breathing problems and eye or ear infections. But to date, the Health Ministry has not gotten reports of health problems associated with poor water quality at beaches.

While the WHO leaves it to each country to decide on the suitable water activity for each grade, the NEA has adopted more stringent criteria — such that any “primary contact activity”, involving long periods of whole-body immersion or where water is likely to be swallowed, is discouraged at beaches that earn anything less than a “good” or “very good” grade.

Activities such as kayaking and dragonboat racing, however, are still deemed safe.

What of frolicking or sun-tanning on the sand at Pasir Ris Beach, which got a “fair” grade?

The NEA advises taking basic precautions, such as not touching one’s mouth and eyes with sandy hands, and washing one’s hands before handling food.

Advisory signboards (below) went up yesterday along Pasir Ris Beach — but beachgoers were slow to take the hint.

When Today’s photographer dropped by in the afternoon, several families with young children were spotted splashing around in the sea. No one paid the signs any heed. But when these were pointed out to them, parents hurried their children out of the water.

One parent, Mr Teng Eng Tiek, takes his three young children to the beach two to three times a month, but said he would think twice about visiting Pasir Ris next time; he would probably head to East Coast Park instead.

The NEA, however, points out that short-term exposure, such as a quick splash-around, carries a low health risk.

Asked what constitutes prolonged exposure that carries a risk, the NEA would only point to a study

cited by the WHO, which counted “three head immersions” within a 10-minute swim as “an exposure”.

Said the NEA spokesman: “For sailing or kayaking, even if participants were to fall into the water accidentally, the chance of such exposure is low as they are required to put on life jackets.”

Putting matters into context, Mr Satish Appoo, head of Environmental Health at NEA, said the “fair” grading that Pasir Ris Beach was not because the water quality had deteriorated over time,

Rather, “the standards have gotten more stringent, so the beach has not been able to meet the new criteria”, he explained.

As to why the seawater there has such a high bacteria count, and how its quality rating can be improved, the answers are yet to come.

The NEA will conduct a study, with results expected next year.

NEA grades water quality of beaches, reservoirs
Pasir Ris beach found not suitable for swimming
Diondi Tan, Straits Times 31 Jul 08;

TO swim - or not to swim. That is the gist of the water quality advisories that the National Environmental Agency will post regarding six of Singapore's most popular beaches, and all of its freshwater reservoirs starting yesterday afternoon.

These water quality advisories are based on the new World Health Organization water quality guidelines for recreational use, which were released in 2003, and are more stringent than the previous guidelines that the NEA was using to monitor the water quality at various bodies of water in Singapore.

These guidelines concern what the NEA terms 'primary contact activities,' or those that involve whole-body contact and immersion in the water, such as swimming, wakeboarding, waterskiing and so on.

Measurement parameters for the beaches include two microbial indicators: Enterococcus, a type of bacteria usually found in human and animal faeces which can cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, and chlorophyll-a, which is used to measure the extent of blue-green algal blooms, which can produce harmful toxins.

The beaches will have only Enterococcus measurement, while the freshwater reservoirs will have both measurements as part of their water quality control.

Each of the six monitored beaches - Sentosa Island (Siloso beach, Palawan beach and Tanjong beach), Seletar Island, Sembawang Park, Changi, East Coast Park and Pasir Ris - will be graded in five steps from 'Very Poor' to 'Very Good.' Only those beaches that attain a water quality grade of 'Good' or 'Very Good' will be recommended for primary contact use by the public.

Out of the six beaches, only Pasir Ris scored 'Fair' under the new guidelines, while the rest got a 'Good' or 'Very Good.' Advisory signs warning beachgoers that the water is not suitable for swimming was posted at the beach, around 3pm yesterday.

All the freshwater reservoirs in Singapore, big and small alike, are undergoing the same programme, to ensure the users of the reservoirs, whether for primary contact activities or not, are enjoying excellent water quality, S Satish Appoo, director, environmental health, National Environment Agency, said during the meeting. All of the current reservoirs in Singapore have passed the guidelines' requirements, and are deemed safe for recreational use.

The water quality of the under-construction Marina Bay reservoir did not meet the standards of the guidelines, and it is still in the process of transitioning from sea water to freshwater. Therefore, as a precaution, PUB will not allow primary contact activities in the reservoir, said Mr Appoo.

A damper on this water sports hub
Marina Reservoir not safe for waterskiers, wakeboarders but one-off events allowed
sheralyn tay, Today Online 31 Jul 08;

IT WAS TO be abuzz with wakeboarders, jetskis and sailboats, but the new recreational water standards may have put a damper on some of these plans to turn the Marina Reservoir into a water sports hub.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the water quality does not meet the revised quality standards. This is partly because, as the largest catchment in Singapore, the reservoir collects rainwater runoff from some of the oldest developments here. Also, it is “still in transition” from being a seawater body to a freshwater one.

But while swimming, wakeboarding and waterskiing will not be allowed in the Marina Reservoir, “one-off events” will still take place — such as for the upcoming National Day Parade which will feature a wakeboarding performance.

“We are really just taking precautions and playing a little on the safe side,” saidMr Yap Kheng Guan, director of 3P Network at PUB. As for the risk the performers would be running, he said: “The primary contact time is very short and they (the wakeboarders) :are skilled, so the risk is very low.”

Since the World Health Organization guidelines are based on the amount of time a person is submerged or in contact with the water, Mr Yap said, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, river cruises and even water racing: will still go on, adding to the vibrancy of the “lifestyle reservoir”.

The PUB will continue to monitor the water quality.

Partly due to the new guidelines, the Wakeboarding and Waterski Federation is moving its operations to Bedok Reservoir. For years, the nearby Kallang River has been a haunt of local waterskiers.

Vice-president Derek Leong said they have had no problems with the water quality before. “We’ve being using the area since 1987 and not a single person has fallen sick. I’ve ingested water on more occasions than one.”

Other wakeboarders Today spoke to were also disappointed.

Ms Sasha Champion, 15, one of the wakeboarders performing on National Day, had been looking forward to wakeboarding being part of the water recreational sports hub that the Marina Reservoir would become.

“Wakeboarding is a spectator sport, so it would have been nice to hold our activities (in the Central Business District),” she said. “It would have helped raise public awareness and support for the sport. So in that sense, we lose out a bit.”:

The $226-million Marina Barrage will form Singapore’s 15th reservoir. Mr Yap said it is due to go freshwater next year and become a functioning reservoir by 2010 or 2011.