High bacterial counts close swimming at Port Alberni’s Paper Mill Dam and Somass River Park

Denise Titian, August 7, 2019

Paper Mill Dam, Port Alberni's most popular swimming hole, is closed to swimming due to high levels of e. coli detected in the water. (Ha-Shilth-Sa archive photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

The city’s most popular swimming hole - called Paper Mill Dam, or the Somass River Park - was closed to bathers, effective Aug. 7 after high levels of e. coli were detected in the water.

The Tseshaht First Nation announced the closure this morning (Aug. 7) on the advice of the First Nations Health Authority, who says they will continue to monitor the situation.

The closure comes at the beginning of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tlu-piich Games when visitors from neighbouring First Nations enjoy cooling off in the river after a hot day of sports.

E. coli is a type of fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans.  The presence of e. coli in water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

The Somass River closure comes just days after the re-opening of Canal Beach, a few kilometers downstream, on the south end of Port Alberni. Island Health issued an advisory on July 9, closing Canal Waterfront Park to swimming due to high levels of e. coli. Canal Beach is now open to swimming.

According the HealthLink BC, you can get sick by swallowing water infected with e. coli bacteria.

Not everyone gets sick, but when they do, symptoms like bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting start about three to four days later.