A suspected sewage spill which closed one of Auckland’s most popular swimming beaches was actually dirty stormwater, Watercare says.
A stream of dirty water initially thought to be sewage flowed down the beach and between the red and yellow swimming flags at Takapuna Beach on the North Shore causing authorities to close the beach on Monday afternoon.
Watercare spokeswoman Ramari Young said multiple tests of the water on Tuesday morning had shown it had tested negative for wastewater.
Young said a stormwater drain overflowed near Takapuna Beach after heavy rains on Monday.
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“The wastewater network wouldn’t discharge onto the beach.
“I understand there was a major downpour in Takapuna yesterday so in fact it was a stormwater pipe and what was coming out of it was stormwater.”
Surf Life Saving Northern Regions Operations Manager Adam Wooler initially said the spill was due to a fault in the wastewater network.
“I think the raw sewage was a one-off, and the issue has been tackled,” Wooler said earlier on Tuesday.
The website indicated that the beach would be clear for swimming again by Tuesday evening.
Young said there were designated overflow points for sewage but those were alarmed, gated, and the site along Takapuna Beach where the suspected spill had happened wasn’t one of them.
At Takapuna Beach on Tuesday afternoon, a number of people were in the water.
Auckland local Lua Mika said he hadn’t been aware of the issues at the beach.
“I didn’t know it was that bad. When she [the life guard] said it was at your own risk, you can still swim if you want, when they said that we were thinking well, its not that bad,” he said.
“I just assume that every beach in New Zealand, in Auckland, is all good to swim in.”
Mika planned to grab the kids and leave after becoming aware of the risk.
North Shore resident Peggy Fahy was aware of the SafeSwim website and had checked the website before coming down to the beach for a walk.
“I wouldn’t go in the water,” she said.
“I was just pointing out to my daughter… there’s a risk to the very young and very old and open sores. Imagine the bacteria that can get in, the havoc it could cause. It could go rampant.”
Fahy said she couldn’t believe that people were still swimming, despite the risk.
Meanwhile several other nearby beaches were also closed due to pollution caused by heavy rain.
Auckland Council has warned that the majority of beaches on the east coast of Auckland’s North Shore, are too polluted for swimming.
Several other popular swimming spots along the coast were also deemed un-swimmable – due to high levels of pollutants in run-off after Monday’s heavy rain event.
SLSNR-patrolled beaches Mairangi Bay, Long Bay, Takapuna Beach and Red Beach were at a “high-risk” on Tuesday morning.
Life savers would not put out the red and yellow flags at those locations and advise beach goers of the risk, Wooler said.
They will monitor the website and put out the flags if and when the water quality changes to low-risk.
Several other popular swimming spots along the coast, which were not patrolled by SLSNR, were also deemed un-swimmable.
These were Waiake Bay, Milford, Milford and Narrowneck beaches.
SafeSwim’s technical lead Martin Neal said the beaches were deemed high-risk based on a number of factors.
“We’ve got predictive models running that respond to various environmental factors that we know are associated with poor water quality.
“Things like tides, wind and the big one is rainfall.”
From 2pm on Monday until the early evening, there was up to 38mm of rain in Mairangi Bay.
“What that does is causes a lot of diffuse pollution to be washed into streams and into beaches.”
For more information, visit the SafeSwim website.
The council has been contacted for comment.