To swim, or not to swim at flooded beaches? First Nations Health Authority says use your eyes — and your nose - InfoNews

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To swim, or not to swim at flooded beaches? First Nations Health Authority says use your eyes — and your nose

FILE PHOTO: A dock is submerged in the waters of Okanagan Lake, just offshore of the Okanagan Indian Band.
June 01, 2017 - 3:08 PM

Whether or not to take the plunge ultimately comes down to your own personal choice, but these tips might make your decision a little easier.

The First Nations Health Authority says in an information bulletin that during and after a flood, private beaches on Okanagan lakes are potentially contaminated with sewage, water runoff, chemicals, and waste from animals.

“There may also be unpredictable currents, fast flowing water and submerged hazards that are dangerous,” the health authority says in the bulletin issued Wednesday evening, May 31.

The health authority recommends that:

  • Swimmers avoid flooded water and/or swim with caution in waters with high amounts of debris. Debris can present physical hazards and increase risk of entrapment and drowning
  • Do Not Swim in water that looks murky, smells unpleasant, or has unusual high discolouration.
  • Avoid swallowing water or putting your head under water if you are unsure about its quality.
  • Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection.
  • Avoid swimming if you are sick from digestive or intestinal problem.

“Chiefs and Councils may wish to post advisories on beaches where they believe it is unsafe to swim or there has been contamination from sewage systems and storm drainage,” the health authority states.

The health authority says it will support local First Nations in recreational water sampling where it is unclear if there has been contamination or if the beach should be posted.

Yesterday, May 31, the Interior Health Authority told they are not yet testing lake water, something that is only done during swimming season, which doesn’t start for a couple of weeks.

A spokesperson provided the following explanation regarding the current safety of lake water: “The public is encouraged not to swim in areas near septic systems which may have been compromised. Generally, if contaminants are present they would be concentrated in standing flood water, but typically dissipate in a large body of water like a lake.”

The Okanagan Indian Band emergency operations centre is also recommending people take precautions to clean and disinfect footwear after immersion in flooded waters. The band also suggests wearing protective gloves, eyewear and rubber boots or waders at all times.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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