NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Monday morning, employees with the Peninsula Health District gathered water samples at two popular beaches along the James River: Huntington Park Beach and Hilton Beach. Meanwhile, beach-goers were told to keep out of the water.
“He said he wanted to go to the beach today, so it’s what we did,” David Ortiz said of his two-and-a-half-year-old son.
Ortiz saw the posted red and white sign, warning him the bacteria levels in the water exceed state water quality standards, but he chose to go in anyway.
“I saw all the people here, and I thought it was kind of weird no one was in the water, and I walked up to the lifeguard, and she said that there was bacteria in the water, swim at your own risk,” Ortiz said. “I said, ‘okay.’ So we came in the water. I’m not too worried about it.”
But the signs did catch the eye of longtime beach-goer Holly Saunders. “When there’s a big rain and there’s a runoff, and that’s when we have the swimming advisories. So, it’s a shame, but it happens, and I don’t want to go in there,” Saunders said.
The Peninsula Health District closed the beaches Friday. Water samples gathered last Thursday — after last week’s rain — showed elevated bacteria levels that could cause stomach sickness, eye irritation, and skin rashes.
The lifeguards at Huntington Park Beach told WAVY.com they cannot physically stop anyone from going into the water. The Peninsula Health District said, if you must go in, it’s best not to go under water and to shower immediately afterwards.
“We encourage the public to protect their health by complying with this advisory,” said Dr. Nzinga Teule-Hekima, director of the Peninsula Health District, in a statement. “Typically, an advisory of this nature is temporary and will be withdrawn once the bacteria levels have returned to a safe level.”
The Peninsula Health District expects Monday’s water quality test results to be back Tuesday afternoon. Until then, the swimming advisories will remain in place.