Environment Canterbury undertaking further testing to find source of faecal bacteria as five beaches deemed unsuitable for swimming

Environment Canterbury is planning to undertake further testing to determine the source of faecal bacteria at Christchurch beaches.

Five beaches have been deemed unsuitable for swimming after high levels of excrement were found during routine testing.

A deserted beach with a dirty little secret - high levels of faecal bacteria. The regional council has promised to do extra testing to find out the source.

"We always had planned, since we knew about the poor grades on some of the sites at Lyttelton Harbour, to do the faecal source tracking, but we need the right conditions for us to do that," water quality science team leader Shirley Hayward said. 

They'll run the tests in the next two months when there's been significant rainfall or another high faecal result picked up in weekly monitoring.

But Hayward is also asking the public to play their part.

"Being responsible dog owners, picking up dog poo, don't let your dogs in beaches where there's a ban, using toilet facilities where they are available." 

Ocean swimming instructor Dan Abel believes there needs to be more education.

"I don't want to see just 'don't go there' and scaremongering. Let's educate people about what is impacting our water and how can we improve it."

Treated wastewater discharging into Lyttelton Harbour could be adding to the high bacteria levels.

"It’s possible, however in those small enclosed bays, there's a lot of runoff after storms," said Christchurch City Council Three Waters head Helen Beaumont. 

But that won't be an issue for much longer. By the end of January, wastewater from Lyttelton will no longer be treated locally and will instead be sent to the wastewater facility in Bromley.

"It will certainly reduce the levels going into the harbour as a whole but given the multiple sources in those enclosed bays, it's hard to know how much it will improve those enclosed bays," Beaumont told Newshub. 

For now, swimmers are advised to use their own judgement about where to take a dip.

"Check the LAWA website before they choose where they are going swimming and when they are going swimming."

Because no swimmer wants to be caught in a code brown.