Bacteria keeps Dot swimmers out of water, luck

Malibu Beach lifeguards say that even the recent heat wave couldn't draw crowds to their stretch of shore. Pictured from left to right are: Kasey Ryan, Kiley Flaherty, Tim Boyle, Jessica Toomey, Mallory Toomey, Sunny Toomey, Ashley Clancy, and Mike Christopher.

With the oppressive heat slamming the city this week, local beaches would seem to be a welcome respite. If they were clean enough to be open, that is.

That was not the case for Dorchester's Malibu Beach this week, as Department of Conservation and Recreation officials deemed the water unsafe for swimming. So instead of a crowded beach and a refreshing dip in the ocean, what few beachgoers appeared on the sand avoided the water all together.

DCR reported that their tests for bacteria came back much higher than the state allowed, making the water a health risk for the public. Vanessa Gulati, in the DCR press office, said that the levels of enterococci were up because of the heavy rains last week, and that the beach would remain closed until they could be assured it was safe. According to their website statistics, DCR found a level of almost 750 bacteria per 100 milliliters, well above the legal rate of 104 per 100 milliliters.

At the beach on Tuesday the few people there seemed to be rather indifferent to the red flag, with some of them claiming they wouldn't ever swim in the water there no matter what color was flying. But others seemed disappointed because the conditions meant they would have to find another way of cooling down.

"It's a problem, but I don't think there is anything they can do," said Mike Stewart of South Boston who kept his little niece Eva cool by playing with the water fountains and spigots instead of the ocean. "All in all it's a pretty good beach."

Another beachgoer who spent his time reading in the sun shared those sentiments.

"I'd say it would be a problem," said Dorchester resident Paul Moore. "But as a rule it has been clean, there isn't a lot of trash or anything."

Bruce Berman of Save the Harbor Save the Bay was not as quick to put the issue aside, however, expressing his frustration at the continued contamination of the waters off Boston.

"I don't know why, but there seems to be historically that there is a problem here," Berman said. "People should not be too patient about this. We have invested a lot of money in this harbor cleanup."

DCR is currently testing the water at Malibu every morning because there is a problem. When conditions are normal, though, they only test the water once a week, something Berman sees as a contributing factor.

"Another part of the problem is that they only test once a week. I would like to see daily testing on those beaches," he said while explaining that regular testing would give more accurate water safety levels.

At Malibu on Tuesday the lifeguards on duty were just as frustrated, wondering when people were going to come to the beaches they clean and prepare every day. And, according to them, there doesn't appear to be much of a correlation between the flag and the attendance numbers, it's just always quiet.

"We want people down here," said Mike Christopher. "We want this beach to be like it used to be, back when it was a popular place."