Many Lebanon beaches too polluted to swim safely

The beach of Ramlet al-Baida, despite its plenitude of swimmers, proved to be the most toxic in Lebanon.

16 June 2017 | 14:07

Source: Annahar

  • By Khaled Rajeh
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 16 June 2017 | 14:07

A beach walker taking in the sights at Ramlet al-Baida.

BEIRUT: Sample tests for harmful bacteria in seawater across the country reveals that several popular beaches are unsafe for swimming, Annahar has found.

After collecting samples of water from the beaches of Tyre, Ramlet al-Baida, Dbayeh, El Mina in Tripoli, and Heri, near Batroun, Annahar researches referred the containers to the AUB Lab to measure the levels of E. coli and streptococcus bacteria.

E.coli is correlated with fecal contamination from urban and residential areas, and its abundance in a sea or lake is an indicator of the spillage of untreated sewage into it. It is also a reliable indicator of the presence of other dangerous microbes, like Giardia, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and norovirus. 

Contact with E. coli-infested water can cause gastrointestinal diseases and skin, ear, eye, and even respiratory infections. Furthermore, species of streptococcus are known to cause pink eye, meningitis, endocarditis, bacterial pneumonia, and strep throat.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the acceptable limit of E. coli and streptococcus organisms in a given sample of swimming water is one per 100 milliliters.

The test results returned as follows:

The beaches in Tyre and Heri recorded safe levels of E.coli and streptococcus in accord with the WHO’s recommendations. However, the beach in Dbayeh recorded E. coli and streptococcus amounts of 54 and five respectively, Tripoli recorded 19 and 400, and the beach of Ramlet al-Baida, despite its plenitude of swimmers, proved to be the most toxic in Lebanon, with amounts of both bacteria exceeding 400 in a 100ml sample.

To put that in context, a 77/100ml level of E. coli corresponds to a sickness rate of 6 per 1000 swimmers, according to research by the US Environmental Protection Agency. On that account, three in every 100 swimmers in Ramlet al-Baida will acquire an infection and/or virus from the water.

Annahar spoke to Iffat Shatila, president of Al Azraq Al Kabir's environmental organization that aims to clean up and preserve coastal and marine zones, for comments on these findings.

Shatila explained that the beaches extending from Khaldeh to Jounieh are even more dangerous for swimming and that the danger not only arises from sewage spillage but from dumping garbage, particularly plastic, by the shore.

“The greatest disaster is that people have known for 20 years how dangerous Ramlet al-Baida is for swimming, yet treating the water is a very simple process; if only our government could see.”


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