LETTER: Precautionary principle was ignored

Did we forget the importance of the precautionary principle in the matter regarding both horses and people permitted on the same beach?

Dear Editor:

Did we forget the importance of the precautionary principle in the matter regarding both horses and people permitted on the same beach?

It appears that a representative from Interior Health told municipal staff that there were no studies showing a health concern from horses and the public sharing a beach — that it is up to the municipality to create its own policies based upon this.

From what I understand from reading the World Health’s guidelines for recreational use in fresh waters and the impact of fecal matter from livestock, it is something that is just understood that we don’t do —mix recreational use with livestock fecal matter in fresh water.

And so, by saying there are no studies that show evidence of a health hazard with mixing recreation and livestock use of a fresh water beach, you are right — because it just isn’t recommended and rarely done.

It’s the precautionary principle at work. (www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwg1.pdf” http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwg1.pdf)

And if you read the report it is not just e-coli that you need to test for, (p. 53)  but other pathogens as well.

In both marine and freshwater studies of the impact of fecal pollution on the health of recreational water users, several fecal index bacteria, including fecal streptococci/intestinal enterococci (see Box 4.1), have been used for describing water quality.  (Prüss, 1998).

Municipal staff and council are suggesting that we be guinea pigs with an experiment — testing the waters for pathogens after we may have ingested them.

As my family doctor stated years ago when my daughter was sick from ingesting polluted water while swimming in the same beach horses will now be allowed in, it is very difficult to connect gastrointestinal disorders with swimming at a particular beach — fortunately for us, he made the connection and by taking a precautionary approach over the years and avoiding certain beaches during hot summer months, we have not suffered such a disorder again.

Mixing recreational and livestock use at a particular beach is simply not wise.

Vicki Lightfoot

Summerland