Lebanon’s beaches are contaminated at dangerous levels in many public areas and resorts in the country, according to testing conducted by National Centre for Marine Sciences, which measured fecal levels in swimming water in 30 areas along Lebanon’s coast. The report found the water unsafe for swimming, well above international safety limits, in 20 areas.

Words Bassam Alkantar

The center follows this activity since 1980; thirty representative sites of the coastal region are chosen alongside the Lebanese coastline.
Physical, chemical, bacteriological and biological analyses are carried out monthly (2 times per month during the summer). An annual sites’ classification is established according to different types of degradation.
Samples collected from swimming areas in Al- minieh, Al-Fidar, Tripoli, Nahr Al-Kalb, Jounieh, Tabarja, Manar, Ramlet al-Baida, and Sidon all measured above the 100 fecal coliforms mark which meant that the beaches are no longer safe for swimming. But good bacteriological water quality in Heri, Kobah, Batroun, Al- Bohsa, Byblos, Damour, and Tyre.
The Only near 90 percent safe beaches in Lebanon are Enfeh Northern Lebanon and Naqoura Southern Lebanon.
Unsafe levels of fecal coliforms can lead to rashes, diarrhea and vomiting and can spread disease depending on the extent of exposure.
Results can vary widely in the same city based on where the sample is taken, it often depends on where waste is exhausted, which is not widely regulated. The Lebanese government, municipalities and international organizations have been working on building a slew of waste treatment plants on the coast for years.
Treatment plants are in various stages of development. But various delays continue to slow the projects.
Lebanon’s public beaches are shrinking, partly due to infringements on the public maritime domain.
Coastal erosion, mainly in north Lebanon, is also affecting beach quality and access.
Bathing water is affected by several pollution streams (sewage outfalls, thermal plants, industries, etc.) and therefore the need to monitor its quality is pronounced.
In addition to untreated sewage from cities and towns, coastal waters are also affected by large seafront dumpsites in Tripoli (still active but contained), Bourj Hammoud (closed but not rehabilitated), Beirut (closed and rehabilitated), Saida (closed and rehabilitated) and Sour (active).
Additional pollution into coastal waters stems from coastline thermal power plants (Beddawi, Zouk, Jieh and Zahrani) and the overwhelming presence of heavy industries along the coast.
The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD ) load from industrial wastewater is estimated at 5,000 tonnes per year.
Waters near industrial sites show high levels of the heavy metals Arsenic, Lead, Zinc and Chromium.
The highest levels were found near the Dora industrial complex, due mainly to the significant tannery industry located there.
Chromium levels may have dropped since because several tanneries have closed.
Very little has been achieved in so far as treating industrial wastewater before discharge into the municipal
streams, rivers and sea.