Wellington Rotary Beach unsafe for swimming: Public Health

Wellington Beach in the summer of 2019. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette staff)
JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health has resumed its regular Beach Monitoring Program in order to test bathing waters at designated public beaches and a local beach is the lone entry posted unsafe due to elevated levels of E. coli bacteria this week.

When public use of beaches is permitted under provincial and/or local restrictions, beach-goers will be able to tell easily if bathing water samples tested at safe levels by checking for status signs at all beaches monitored by HPEPH. Beach goers can also find the status of recent water testing by visiting the Public Beach Reports section at hpePublicHealth.ca, where updated beach reports will be posted on the Friday of each week.

In a press release issued Friday afternoon, HPEPH stressed it will  monitor water quality and post designated beaches if water has tested at unsafe levels – regardless of potential COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

“Posting beach water test results does not override any local and/or provincial COVID-19 restrictions in place related to beach use or public gatherings,” said communications specialist Maureen Hyland. “HPEPH considers beaches to be outdoor recreational amenities which may open as early as Saturday, May 22. However, acceptable beach access will be determined by Ontario Parks and local municipalities, and may vary. All applicable protocols will be enforced by local police, bylaw services, municipalities and/or Ontario Parks. All current public health restrictions must continue to followed.”

The following beaches in our area are presently posted as unsafe for swimming:

  • Wellington Beach – Wellington Bay

When use of outdoor amenities such as beaches is permitted, HPEPH asks visitors to take extra precautions to ensure safety.

If you choose to visit the beach this spring/summer:

  • Ensure public use of the beach is permitted by Ontario Parks, the municipality, or private owner.
  • Follow all current restrictions related to use of, and gathering at, outdoor amenities.
  • Do not visit any public spaces (including outdoor amenities) if you feel unwell. Stay home and seek testing for COVID-19.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone outside your household – this means keeping two metres of distance from anyone else – even when outdoors.
  • Wear a face covering in shared spaces or when you may not be able to keep two metres of distance from others. At the beach, this includes changerooms, washrooms, parking lots, or any other congested area.
  • Wash your hands frequently before and after touching shared surfaces. Bring hand sanitizer with you in case handwashing facilities are not available.
  • The Stay at Home Order remains in effect until June 2. Avoid travel outside of the HPEC region if possible, and do not host friends or family from out of region. Travel to and from other regions increases the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.

The annual Beach Monitoring Program ensures that water at public beaches does not contain unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria at the time of testing. As part of the program, public health staff collect a minimum of five water samples from each beach scheduled that week for monitoring. 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, and notices will be sent to the media, as well as posted on the HPEPH website and social media.

We all have a role to play to keep local water safe and clean. To help improve local water quality, you can:

  • Upgrade septic systems and keep them in good working order.
  • Pet owners should observe local ‘stoop & scoop’ bylaws.
  • Detach eavestroughs from sewers so they discharge onto lawns to reduce 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.

Additional information, including a list of all beaches that have tested safe for swimming, is available on the Public Beach Reports section at hpePublicHealth.ca. Updated beach reports will be posted on the Friday of each week throughout beach monitoring season. For information on the status of Provincial Park beaches in Hastings and Prince Edward County, visit http://www.ontarioparks.com/alerts.