8.9 Presenting information to the public
Aspects of public information are considered in Chapter 6. It is sufficient to note here that the quality of recreational water is of great public concern and is often used in publicity to attract visitors to recreational areas. Several countries have developed regular information services, using television, teletext, newspapers and radio (EEC, 1996) to supplement bulletins in municipal buildings and on public notice boards at the recreational areas. The implementation of a monitoring programme with these characteristics is described by Figueras et al. (1997). Generally, the public simply want to know if it is safe to use the water and most people have little understanding of the meaning of bacterial counts, let alone their variability. The information presented to the public, therefore, should be direct and unequivocal, up-to-date and not open to misinterpretation.
Elements of good practice
Sanitary inspection should be undertaken as a necessary adjunct to microbiological
analysis of waters to identify all real and potential sources of microbiological contamination. It should assess the impact of any microbiological contamination present on the quality of the recreational water and on the health of bathers. During the inspection, the temporal and spatial influences of pollution on water quality should receive full consideration.
An exhaustive sanitary inspection should be carried out immediately prior to the main
bathing season. Inspections of specific conditions should be conducted in conjunction with routine sampling during the bathing season. Pertinent information should be recorded on standardised checklists and used to update the catalogue of basic characteristics. If a problem is identified, it may be necessary to collect supplementary samples or information to characterise the problem.
Visual faecal pollution or sewage odour should be considered a definite sign of
elevated microbiological pollution and the necessary steps should be taken to prevent health risks to bathers.
Standard operating procedures for sanitary inspections, water sampling (including
depth) and analyses should be well described to ensure uniform assessments.
Sample point location and the distance between each location should reflect local
conditions (overall water quality, bather usage, predicted sources of faecal pollution, temporal and spatial variations due to tidal cycles, rainfall, currents, onshore winds and point or non-point discharges) and may vary widely between sites.
Sterile sample containers should be used for microbiological samples. Scrupulous care
should be taken to avoid accidental contamination during handling and during sample collection. Every sample should be identified clearly with the time of collection, date and location.
The most appropriate depth for sampling should be selected and adhered to