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June 14, 2013

Bacteria findings shut down Plum Cove Beach

For the first time this year, a Gloucester beach has been closed for swimming due to a high level of bacteria confirmed through testing the shore waters.

The city’s Board of Health closed the beach Thursday morning after receiving results back from the state, the tests were taken Tuesday.

Levels of Enterococci, the bacteria found in the waters, “far exceed” state guidelines, according to Max Schenk, manager of Environmental Health Services for the city.

Tests revealed 218 colony-forming units (CFUs) — or living individuals — of the bacteria within 100 milliliters of water, while the state safety limit for the number of bacteria per 100 milliliters is 104 CFUs, Schenk said.

He pointed to the recent amount of rain as a possible cause for the contamination.

In addition, combined sewer overflow pumping into the Merrimack River may add to the contamination, Schenk said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, combined sewer systems are designed to collect domestic sewage, rainwater runoff and other waste water in the same pipe. When there is too much rainfall, however, the sewer systems overflow.

In addition, storms can cause bacteria to break loose when there is a lot of movement on the ocean floor, Schenk said. And the national Centers for Disease Control note that the bacteria can sometimes spur infection.

New tests were taken Thursday morning before the afternoon rainfall, Schenk said.

The city uses the local business Biomarine Inc. for the water tests and new results would likely be available this afternoon.

This closure comes just weeks after two beaches in Manchester were briefly shut down for the same reasons.

“It’s wait and see at this point,” Schenk said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at

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