Will bacteria count beach Barack Obama?
By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
Friday, August 20, 2010 - Updated 42 minutes ago
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WEST TISBURY - Welcome to Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. President - but don’t go in the water!
President Obama, who took a plunge in the Gulf last week to show Americans it was safe to swim the oil spill-plagued area, arrived on this supposedly pristine island yesterday in the midst of a rash of bacteria-induced beach closings.
Portions of Tisbury Great Pond, the salt-water lagoon fronting the first family’s vacation estate Blue Heron Farm, were closed earlier this week due to high levels of enterococci, an indicator that the water is contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria. Ew.
High levels of enterococci can cause skin irritation, vomiting or diarrhea in swimmers. Which could ruin anyone’s vacation!
West Tisbury health agent John Powers said Long Cove Pond and Sepiessa Point Beach on Tisbury Great Pond were closed to swimming Tuesday after both failed water-quality testing. The two beaches are public and located not too far from the Obamas’ private beach. Because the beach on Blue Heron Farm is not accessible to the public, it is not subject to water-quality tests, Powers said.
Parts of the Tisbury Great Pond remained closed yesterday but others were open after new testing brought the bacteria counts back down to acceptable levels. Powers said he couldn’t say whether the first family should avoid swimming in the pond during their 10-day Vineyard vacation.
“It’s not my job to recommend or not recommend whether or not to go in the water,” he said. “I just get the numbers and take the appropriate action.”
But when we asked another town official whether or not it was safe for the prez to take a dip in the pond, he was a little more informative.
“Depends on whether or not he likes to swim in poop,” joked the longtime islander, who shall remain nameless.
More than 200 Massachusetts beaches have been closed due to high bacteria readings this summer. The high counts are usually caused by sewage or storm water overflow but could also be caused by domestic or farm animals and wildlife.
On Martha’s Vineyard, West Tisbury wasn’t the only town plagued by beach closings. Swimming was banned on four popular beaches in Oak Bluffs this week - the Inkwell, Pay Beach, Eastville Beach and Medeiros Cove due to high bacteria counts. They were reopened yesterday after re-testing. In Chilmark, the pond at Lucy Vincent Beach had bacteria readings more than double the acceptable levels.