Swimming Advisory Issued for Pasir Ris and Sembawang Beaches Due to High Bacteria Levels

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February 6, 2024 — The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced on February 5 that people should not swim at Pasir Ris Beach and Sembawang Park Beach. This is because the water has a high concentration of microorganisms. Water immersion training, wakeboarding, and windsurfing are also included in this warning. These activities also pose a risk of gastrointestinal infections from water ingestion.

The NEA’s cautionary stance comes after the latest annual beach assessment. It revealed a downgrade in the water quality of both Sembawang Park and Pasir Ris beaches from “Good” to “Fair”. Scientists say the decline is due to finding more high levels of Enterococcus (EC) bacteria. Enterococcus is a common bacteria. Humans and other warm-blooded animals have it in their gastrointestinal tracts. It is safe to continue activities that do not involve significant water contact. These include sailing, kayaking, and canoeing.

These signs will be erected at both beaches to inform the public. They will tell people not to swim until further notice. The NEA’s preliminary investigations suggest that the elevated bacteria levels originate inland. The source is not transboundary. The search for and elimination of the inland sources of the contamination is currently under process. There is a partnership between PUB, NParks, and the SFA (Singapore Food Agency).

The situation prompted inquiries to the NEA for more details about the pollution sources. People want to know what measures are being taken to address and curtail these pollution inputs. It’s worth noting that the other five popular recreational beaches in Singapore have kept their “Good” grade. These beaches include the East Coast, Changi, Punggol, Seletar Island, and Sentosa. This indicates their suitability for all water activities.

This is not the first instance of a beach advisory for Pasir Ris Beach. A similar situation occurred from August 2008 to January 2012. The beach earned a “fair” grade during that time. They lifted the advisory in February 2012 after the water quality improved to a “good” rating. The NEA conducts weekly water sampling at seven key recreational beaches across Singapore.

At the start of each year, they grade the beaches based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recreational water quality guidelines. This grading reflects the occurrence of high EC bacteria counts in the beach water samples. It covers a preceding three-year period.

Beaches are graded “fair” if EC bacteria levels exceed 200 cfu/100 ml for more than 5% of their samples over three years. Higher levels of contamination result in “poor” or “very poor” grades. NEA cautions that EC count spikes can occur. They urge beachgoers to check the Beach Short-term Water Quality Information (BSWI) on the NEA website or the myENV app before going in the water. This proactive approach aims to safeguard public health. Efforts to improve water quality are ongoing.


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