Pavilion Beach remains closed to swimming

·3 min read

Jul. 17—Elevated levels of bacteria at Pavilion Beach remained high over the weekend and forced the postponement of the Gloucester Police Department's Lobster Crate Race fundraiser.

"Warning! No swimming. Swimming may cause illnesses," read signs posted at the beach. "Bacteria levels have exceeded acceptable levels." The city Health Department had closed Pavilion Beach to swimming Thursday, July 14, after a series of water quality tests showed elevated levels of enterococci bacteria there. The department retested the beach twice Thursday and again on Friday. Results from Friday's tests, posted Saturday, showed levels above the state standard.

Health Director Max Schenk on Friday morning said there are a couple of complicating factors related to bacteria at the beach. Health officials don't know why levels jumped and why they have stayed that way. It may be due to a storm churning up the ocean bottom, kicking up a lot of bacteria, or it could be related to a combined sewer overflow nearby, he said. Usually with a tide or two "it samples fine."

"Right now it's at 40, just over the top," Schenk said.

Because the rates are so high, it's affected what's called the geometric mean over a series of five tests, the average of which went above the state standard of 35 colony forming units, Schenk said.

The city is allowed to retest twice a day. Elsewhere, Schenk said testing at Half Moon Beach and Cressy's Beach at Stage Fort Park only need to be tested once a month "because testing there tends to be so good and continues to be very good so it isn't required to go beyond that." The Gloucester Police Department decided midday Friday to postpone its Lobster Crate Race, a fundraiser to benefit the Gloucester Fishermen Athletic Association's campaign to renovate Gloucester High School's weight room, that was scheduled for Saturday, July 16.

"This event involved lots of planning by Community Impact Unit Officer (Joe) Parady and volunteering and donations by different businesses, we will do everything possible to reschedule," the department said on its Facebook page.

"All registrations will be honored," said police Chief Ed Conley, in an email to the Times. Pavilion Beach sees higher bacteria levels and is targeted because a combined sewer overflow outfall pipe is nearby.

When there is a major rain event and sewer combines with storm water in some areas, it can back up and the discharge pipe is not far from the beach.

"It's tough when you've had back-to-back high results, especially as high as they were... but we'll see. Sadly, there is just nothing we can do about it," Schenk said. "It's all state requirements. The state sees the numbers so it's not like we can say, 'Well, I know they are high, but OK, let's do this anyway.' The state will come down on us hard and heavy if we don't respond according to what we are supposed to."

Material from Ethan Forman was used in this report.

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at eforman@northofboston.com.

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at eforman@northofboston.com.