El Palmar, Zihuatanejo This one's clean — El Palmar in Zihuatanejo.

Beach warnings issued in time for vacations

Six out of 264 beaches deemed unsafe for swimming

It is Semana Santa in Mexico, Holy Week in English, a religious holiday in which more people appear to go to the beach than to church.

And while few would doubt that churches are generally safe, the same cannot always be said of beaches.

However, the federal health agency Cofepris has come out with figures to allay any worries about the quality of the water at 97.7% of Mexico’s 264 swimming beaches.

In fact, just six beaches were found to be unsafe for swimming after testing was carried out in early March in preparation for the Easter vacation season. Two are in Guerrero and four in Campeche.

Zihuatanejo’s beach La Principal, which last year earned the designation “unfit” for swimming, does so again this year after testing revealed enterococcus fecal bacteria counts of 870 per 100 milliliters of water, exceeding the limit by 670.

In Acapulco, where visitors might wonder more about security rather than health issues, Tlacopanocha is the beach to avoid for its polluted water, which was measured at 249 per 100 ml.

The good news for Acapulco — which needs all it can get — is that three other beaches — Caletilla, Caleta and Hornos — all recorded measurements of 43 or less. Another safe choice would be Playa Icacos, which has been awarded the international Blue Flag certification.

The four offending beaches in Campeche are Zacatal with 677 per 100, Manigua with 474, Norte I with 856 and Norte II with 890.

Swimmers who enter waters with high bacteria counts risk gastrointestinal, respiratory and skin issues, warned Rocío Alatorre of Cofepris.

The agency’s Clean Beaches Program conducted 2,020 tests of 264 beaches in 63 tourist destinations during the lead-up to Semana Santa, said Alatorre, using four to six water samples from each beach.

He observed that Acapulco’s numbers have improved, which he said can be attributed to infrastructure improvements such as sewage treatment, improved drainage and better garbage collection.

Alatorre said one issue causing high pollution levels in Campeche could be ships discharging sewage.

Eleven beaches in Mexico enjoy certification by Blue Flag, which is managed by an international non-profit organization. Its certification has stricter standards than Mexico’s: enterococcus bacteria counts must not exceed 100 per 100 ml of water.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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