SINGAPORE: Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) issued a warning on Monday (5 February), urging people to refrain from swimming at Pasir Ris Beach and Sembawang Park Beach until further notice due to increased instances of elevated bacteria levels in the water.
NEA also advised against participating in other “primary contact water activities” such as wakeboarding, windsurfing, and water immersion training at these locations.
Primary contact water activities refer to those where a person’s whole body or face and trunk are frequently immersed, increasing the likelihood of water ingestion.
These activities encompass swimming, wakeboarding, windsurfing, and water immersion training.
However, non- primary contact water activities like sailing, kayaking, and canoeing can proceed as usual, NEA said.
Beach grading drops due to elevated bacteria levels
The grading of both beaches fell from ‘Good’ to ‘Fair’ in this year’s annual beach grading exercise.
According to NEA, the drop in grading is attributed to more frequent readings of elevated Enterococcus (EC) bacteria in the water, which heightens the risk of gastrointestinal infection when ingested.
Enterococcus bacteria, commonly found in warm-blooded animals including humans, can pose health risks if present in water at elevated levels.
NEA said they are working with other agencies such as PUB, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to investigate and mitigate possible sources contributing to the elevated EC bacteria.
“Based on our preliminary investigations, the elevated EC levels are from inland sources and are not transboundary in nature,” it added.
Additionally, signs advising against swimming will be installed at both beaches as a precautionary measure.
Five beaches maintain ‘Good’ grade for safe water activities
Aside from Pasir Ris and Sembawang Park beaches, the remaining five beaches – East Coast, Changi, Punggol, Seletar Island, and Sentosa – maintain a ‘Good’ grade and are deemed suitable for all water activities.
According to the notice, NEA conducts weekly water sampling at seven popular recreational beaches in Singapore to assess water quality.
The grading is based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recreational water quality guidelines, considering instances of elevated EC bacteria count in water samples over the past three years.
Beaches with EC bacteria levels exceeding 200cfu/100ml for more than 5 percent of samples over a three-year period are graded ‘Fair,’ while higher levels result in ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor’ grades.
NEA emphasized that there may be occasions when EC counts in the water at these beaches are elevated.
Beachgoers are advised to check the Beach Short-term Water Quality Information (BSWI) on the NEA website or the myENV app before engaging in water activities.
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