UPDATE: Grace Oliver Beach reopened

The Marbleheaad Health Department has reopened Grace Oliver Beach just in time for the weekend.

The beach was closed Thursday after it “failed to meet the minimum standards for bathing beaches due to a bacterial exceedance,” according to a statement from Marblehead Health Dir. Andrew Petty.

At a recent Board of Health meeting, Petty explained the town’s process for testing water at swimming beaches in town. Water samples are taken every Wednesday, no more than one hour before or after high tide, and sent to a lab.

“We’re testing for the bacteria enterococci,” Petty explained, adding that the maximum safe level is 104. “We have generally been less than 10 for most of our beaches.”

This was the first time this summer a beach in town has failed testing.

Petty said if he gets a failing sample, he’s allowed to keep a beach open until a re-test is completed —except at Grace Oliver. After one bad sample there, he needs to close the beach until he receives a passing test.

The town posts a No Swimming sign if a beach is closed due to high bacteria counts. Petty posts to the town website and alerts town departments, including the Marblehead Police Department, which post to its Facebook page.

People can always check mass.gov/info-details/current-public-beach-postings for beach closings.

Last summer, Gas House was closed for 19 days and Grace Oliver was closed for 14 days.

Bacteria in ocean water can come from several soruces, Petty said, including stormwater runoff, sanitary sewer overflow, leaking sewer pipes, illegal sewer hookups, and wildlife and pet waste.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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