Question By Members, 14 December 2016
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Provincial beach water quality

Dr. Bevan-Baker: There have been some disturbing reports coming out of New Brunswick recently, about water quality at some of their beaches on the Northumberland coast. Dangerously high levels of human fecal bacteria were detected at Parlee and Murray beaches, high enough that they should have closed those beaches down.

Here on Prince Edward Island, we regularly see fish kills and shellfish closures due to sewage discharge or leaching, which seems to have been the problem in New Brunswick.

Does government monitor water quality at our provincial beaches to make sure that they are safe for swimmers?

Speaker: Who are you directing your question to?

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Madam Speaker, I’m unsure as to whether this falls under Communities, Land and Environment, tourism, or Agriculture and Fisheries, so whichever department is responsible.

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Communities, Land and Environment.

Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It is a great question, hon. member. It’s one that it’s my understanding that the federal Government of Canada has a part to play in those. I do believe that periodically, from time to time, we do get calls concerning things washing up on shores on our Island beaches, and we do attend and we do inspections.

As far as water testing goes I’d have to bring that back to you, hon. member, as to the tests that were performed, and I’d be willing to do that as soon as I get that information.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

Inspections are not monitoring, and I can tell the House that we do not currently monitor our water quality on Prince Edward Island beaches. At the risk of stating the obvious, beaches are incredibly important to PEI tourism. We can’t protect our beaches and the people who use them if we don’t monitor the water quality there.

A situation such as the one that happened in Parlee and Murray beaches in New Brunswick, where fecal bacteria have been found at dangerous levels, could have a devastating impact on our tourism industry here on Prince Edward Island.

Since we are not monitoring water quality, is government doing anything else to protect water quality at our Island beaches?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Communities, Land and Environment.

Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I am not at liberty of the information of Parlee beach, but I do know on events that happened right here in Prince Edward Island that happened last year in the Stratford region. DFO did shut down the fishery and did shut down the use of the harbour in Charlottetown, so that’s the normal case.

When an occurrence like that would happen, DFO would indicate the action taken as far as the fisheries is concerned.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Indeed, following the discharge into the Hillsborough River we did shut down the shellfish fishery there. But we did nothing to monitor Tea Hill beach or the beaches in my district, District 17, on the south shore where this inevitably would have ended up.

If we can’t monitor water quality, how can we assure tourists or Islanders that our beaches are safe to use? We need to address this issue before a problem like the one that occurred in New Brunswick happens here on Prince Edward Island.

Will this government commit to begin water testing at Island beaches before the next summer holiday season?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans does do the testing. They send the word out.

If there is an issue they put a posting on the shoreline so that anyone who visits the shoreline can see that this area is to some degree contaminated and there’s no fishing or considered swimming in that area as well. The postings are put up and the announcements are made, and when that time is lifted the announcements are made quite open to the public.


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