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Sand Hills finally reopens, just in time for heat wave

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 20, 2011 05:12 PM

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Sand Hills beach is finally open again, after a week of being closed due to high bacteria counts.

The beach, the only Scituate beach to be closed to swimming this summer, was shut down on July 13 after testing showed that the water had 900 bacteria colonies per 100/ml – the highest bacteria count any Scituate beach has had in almost a decade.

The beach had 369 colonies per 100/ml on Friday and had yet to come back below the 104 cfu per 100/ml threshold until today.

According to Jennifer Sullivan, director of the Scituate Department of Public Health, the last five sample tests taken in the last two days came back at 10 cfu per 100/ml or less, and so the beach is now safe to open.

Not only has this been the highest bacteria count any beach has received, but it has also been the longest a beach has been closed.

According to results on the town website, the only other beach with bacteria levels this high was Humarock, which tested at 410 cfu per 100/ml in 2003 for the week of June 25. Even then, the beach wasn’t closed for a week.

According to the town’s website, if a single sample tests come in in excess of 104 cfu’s per 100/ml, the beach must be closed to swimming. Beaches are immediately closed when they receive high bacteria counts, although results come in a day after testing

According to Sullivan, tides change four times a day, and beaches may have lower bacteria counts far before the results for a retest are available, although swimming is discouraged until adequate test results come in.

Scituate’s Board of Health tests five Scituate beaches, including Humarock, Peggotty Beach, Sand Hills, Egypt Beach, and Minot on a weekly basis from June until Labor Day.
Testing is done more frequently if there is an indication of excessive bacteria.

Although the beach was abnormal, all other Scituate beaches were fine and remain fine for swimming, Sullivan said.

It is unclear what exactly caused the spike in bacteria, though it may have something to do with dogs on the beach or boats dumping in the water.

“But really, we don’t know,” Sullivan said.

Residents were concerned about other beaches in Scituate during the past week, but overall there weren’t too many complaints, Sullivan said.

It's a good thing the beach will be open too, as MEMA recently issued a hot weather advisory for the South Shore.

MEMA has issued this advisory to residents on how to avoid heat stroke. Officials are advising against locals being in the sun doing strenuous activity.

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