Swim bans lifted at all Plum Island beaches

Local News

Swimming was not allowed at the popular Newburyport destination for almost a week due to high levels of bacteria.

An aerial view of Plum Island. David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

After being closed to swimmers for almost a week, the waters of Plum Island are now open again.

Swim bans were put in place on all the beaches at the popular summer destination due to high levels of bacteria on July 17. That was when routine water quality tests showed that average bacteria levels for the beaches exceeded state limits.

Newburyport officials dropped the swim ban at the beach accessible at 55th Street Friday. Following more testing, the water at all beaches on Plum Island was reopened starting Sunday at 9 a.m.

More than 1,100 public and semi-public beaches throughout Massachusetts are regularly tested for various water quality issues. As of Friday, 64 beaches were closed to swimmers. That included numerous Plum Island beaches, and the list should be updated again early this week.

When water quality issues are detected, only swimming is banned at the beach. They are still open to the public for recreation outside the water.

Most swim bans occur when “bacterial exceedance” occurs. This means that the levels of Enterococci or E. coli in the water have exceeded pre-designated limits, and pathogens are dangerously abundant.

Multiple beaches are regularly closed to swimming due to harmful algae blooms as well. When conditions are right, cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can multiply quickly in water. The algae then releases toxins, which can make people sick and can even kill pets.