How clean is the water at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and Chesapeake Bay?

Posted at 11:55 AM, Aug 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-22 18:13:58-04

Have you ever wondered what is behind a swimming advisory? What does it take for officials to declare, "No Swimming"?

"There's really no rhyme or reason when we have an advisory. It could be a nice sunny day without rain and we could have an advisory," says Brad DeLashmutt, Environmental Health Supervisor with the City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Health

NewsChannel 3's Dominic Brown traveled along with DeLashmutt to the Chesapeake Bay to learn how he tests the water to see if it's safe for swimming.

Armed with a cooler, a pole and a black box, DeLashmutt travels to 22 sites from Chick's Beach to just south of Sandbridge to test the waters all by himself.

"What we're doing is to protect the public's health, and that's why we're here," he says.

DeLashmutt takes a bottle and walks into knee-deep water to take a sample. The water is then put into a cooler for testing back at a lab.

But before he's done at that site, he goes back into the water to take another sample that is tested with a meter.

"It will give us the pH, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. Those things will help us understand if we do get a bad result and maybe why we did get a bad result in that area," he says.

The City of Virginia Beach tests the water once a week but if the bacteria levels are high, then they will test it every day until the levels are back to normal.

DeLashmutt says it's hard to tell if the water contains high bacteria from fecal matter or  heavy rain just by looking at it. That's why he only has a six-hour window to take samples from across the city to be tested and let us know if the water is safe.