This week, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit officially launches its beach water testing program for summer 2017. Between now and the end of August, Health Unit staff will take weekly water samples at the following 15 public beaches in the City of Kawartha Lakes: Bexley Township Area, Blanchard’s Road Beach; Bobcaygeon Area, Beach Park and Riverview Beach Park; Eldon Township Area, Centennial Park West; Emily/Omemee Area, Omemee Beach;Fenelon Falls Area, Birch Point, Bond Street, and Sturgeon Point Beach; Laxton Township Area, Head Lake and Norland Bathing Area; Mariposa Township Area, Valentia (Sandbar) Beach;Somerville Township Area, Burnt River Beach (Somerville) and Burnt River Four Mile Lake;Verulam Township Area, Centennial Beach (Verulam) and Verulam Recreational Park
Water samples from each of these beaches will be sent to the public health lab, in Peterborough, to test for E.coli and other bacteria. Based on test results, the Health Unit will determine if the water quality at a beach is safe for swimming. If bacterial levels in the water are higher than those considered acceptable by the Ontario government, the Health Unit will post ‘WARNING’ signs along the beach to indicate it’s unsafe for swimming and public use. Signs will be removed once bacterial counts return to safe levels.
“It’s important to heed the advice of these ‘WARNING’ signs, if you see one at a local beach, and avoid getting into the water,” says Debbie Johnston, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Beaches can provide fun and enjoyment, but also can pose a health risk.”
Area residents are encouraged to be ‘beach smart’, by checking with the Health Unit on a regular basis, to see if local beaches are safe for public use. Beach test results will be available by late Thursday or early Friday, each week, throughout the summer months. People can access the results by calling the Health Unit toll-free, at 1-866-888-4577 or visiting www.hkpr.on.ca. The Health Unit will also post the latest beach water test results on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/HKPRDHU, and Twitter, at www.twitter.com/HKPRDHU.
However, people going to a beach should also look out for other factors that could affect how safe it is for swimming, Johnston notes. Bacterial counts in the water can increase due to heavy rain, high winds or wave activity, and even a large number of birds such as geese or seagulls nesting near the beach. Other warning signs, like floating debris, oil, discoloured water, bad odours and excessive weed growth, can also suggest the beach is unsafe to use, she adds.