Public health ramps up beach testing for the 2019 swimming season

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

While only the heartiest of swimmers will consider dipping a toe into the waters around area beaches this weekend, the  2019 Beach Monitoring Program administered by Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is officially underway.

Beach-goers will be able to tell easily if bathing waters at designated public beaches are safe for swimming as status signs will be posted at all beaches monitored by Hastings Prince Edward Public Health. 

The public can also find out if your favourite beach is safe for swimming by calling our Beach Info-Line at 613-966-5500 ext. 652 or 1-800-267-2803 ext. 652 or by visiting the Water Safety section on our website: www.hpePublicHealth.ca

It should come as no surprise that any of the beaches tested this week came back negative for elevated levels of biological contaminants, Public Health will continue to monitor swimming areas regularly until fall.

“Public health staff collects a minimum of five water samples from each beach scheduled for monitoring that week,” explained Irena Ampuero, Public Health Inspector. “These samples are sent to a provincial lab and tested for levels of E. coli bacteria.”

When bacterial counts exceed provincial guidelines, warning signs are posted at the beach advising that the water is unsafe for swimming.

“The health unit also recommends that people do not swim at a public beach for up to 48 hours after a heavy rain because E. coli levels tend to be higher then,” added Ampuero. “High levels of bacteria in recreational water can cause skin, ears, eyes, nose and throat infections and stomach disorders.”

Locally, Public Health tests waters at three summertime swimming hangouts.

Wellington Beach is among the beaches Public Health tests weekly over the summer months while Centennial Park in Northport and Roblin Lake Park in Ameliasburgh are bathing beaches that are checked once every two weeks over the summer months.

In terms of provincial parks, local staff at North Beach and Sandbanks administer their own regular testing at the County’s two most popular beaches and results are posted

The public can assist in mitigating nutrient-rich runoff from making it into local watercourses and lakes and elevating  E. coli levels

“We all need to do our part to improve water quality,” said Ampuero.  

The Public Health Inspector suggests the following:

  • Upgrade septic systems and keep them in good working order.
  • Pet owners should observe local ‘stoop & scoop’ bylaws
  • Detach eaves troughs from sewers so they discharge onto lawns. This reduces the amount of rainwater going directly into sewers.
  • Ensure that washroom additions to your home are connected properly to the sanitary sewers.
  • Fence livestock away from streams and provide them with alternate water sources.
  • Ensure that run-off from feedlots and manure piles are properly contained.