Forced closure of Saadiyat Island beaches was due to ‘brown film’

One visitor to the public beach complained that the water was not fit for swimming in and staff refused to refund the cost of entry.

One American Saadiyat public beach visitor was left annoyed at the lack of refund after visiting and finding that the sea was unswimmable. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // Brown, murky water sighted off the coast of Saadiyat Island forced officials to temporarily close the beach to visitors this weekend.

Swimmers were forbidden from entering the water along Saadiyat public beach, Saadiyat Beach Club and the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi from about noon on Friday until about 10am yesterday as officials conducted an analysis of the water quality.

“The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) received a notification of light brown water on Park Hyatt Beach and Saadiyat Island public beach. EAD environmental emergency team conducted an initial environmental assessment,” the EAD said.

Marine samples tested by the agency found evidence of a blue-green bacteria called cyanobacteria, which can cause skin irritation and itching.

The EAD said it was “very common” for this “minor algal bloom” to develop in the water during the summer season.

Buntu Malgas, recreation manager for Saadiyat Beach Club, said he had not seen evidence of the bloom himself but followed orders from the Tourism Development & Investment Company, which owns the properties, to close the beach as a precaution.

“We got the go-ahead to operate as normal” the next day.

He said the temporary closure did not affect many guests, only that “we had more people in the pool”.

Arabella Willing, a marine biologist with Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, said the bloom was a “minor, natural environment incident”.

“I’m not aware of any ill-­effects to beach-goers,” Mrs Willing said. “The situation is being closely monitored by TDIC and the Environment Agency.”

The TDIC did not immediately respond to queries.

One American who visited the public beach with his wife and toddler on Friday morning said he had not been warned of the water quality ­issue when he bought the family’s tickets to enter.

When he saw some staff filming the water, he noticed “cloudy pockets all around, big pockets, and then all over on top there was like a bubbly brown film.”.

Beach staff refused to issue a refund or return his receipt to prove he had been there.

“I felt I was treated very ­rudely,” the father said. “They should have had a warning or just a sign up out front.”