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About Beach Water Quality

To ensure that the water at public beaches is safe for swimming, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be monitoring 9 public beaches on a weekly basis throughout the summer.

During the warm months Windsor-Essex County beaches provide tourists and local residents with a relaxing environment to swim and play recreational sports. 

Beach Water Quality Results are updated weekly online. You can also call the Beach Hotline at 519-258-2146 ext. 426 (H20) for updates.

Each week water at these beaches are tested and monitored for levels of bacteria, algae growth, or other contaminants that could cause health problems associated with swimming. These include a number of illnesses, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin ailments, and infections of the eye, ear, nose or throat.

For more information please call 519-258-2146 between the hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

What do high levels of E. coli mean?
Ontario beaches are posted with warnings of possible health risks when E. coli levels are higher than 100 E. coli per 100 ml of water. E. coli bacteria are found in the intestines and feces of all animals and most types are harmless. The water is tested for E. coli because it is an ‘indicator organism,’ meaning that it indicates the presence of other harmful bacteria. Usually, when high levels of E. coli are in the water, there is a greater number of people with illnesses from swimming.  

Once the E.coli bacteria count exceeds 100 (E.coli/100 ml) swimming is not recommended. If the E. coli count is  higher than 1000, it is NOT SAFE for swimming and the beach is CLOSED.

After a heavy rainfall

From our experience, we have found that weather conditions are the leading factor that can adversely affect water quality. Bacteria levels will increase in accordance with the amount of rainfall, or strength of the wind blowing onto the shore. Rainwater washes fecal material from cats, dogs, birds and other wildlife into storm sewers which flow directly into nearby rivers and lakes.We do not recommend swimming for at least 24-48 hours after a rainfall, or if the water is cloudy and churned up from a strong on-shore wind. Calm, clear water is usually associated with lower bacterial levels, while rough or cloudy water has been associated with high counts.

What’s polluting our beaches?
Several sources of water pollution can result in beach postings. These include:

  • runoff from stormwater (heavy rain)
  • overflows from combined sewers that carry both sewage and stormwater
  • excess flows that have bypassed municipal or industrial sewage treatment plants.
  • large populations of waterfowl that colonize a beach or surrounding area

In urban areas, stormwater runoff contains bacteria from pet and wildlife feces, illegally connected sanitary sewers, and poorly installed basement washrooms.

Beaches in rural areas are usually closed because of bacterial contamination from two main sources:

  • private septic systems that are poorly maintained and located.
  • be agricultural activities, particularly livestock operations, if not properly managed.

Bacteria can enter streams through runofffrom manure piles and feedlots, by livestock being allowed access to streams and when milkhouse washwater is dumped into drainage ditches and streams.

How can I help?

  • Pet wastes are a major source of bacteria in stormwater. Please observe stoop and scoop bylaws. Remove dog feces immediately from streets, public parks, and private property.
  • Where possible, detach eavestrough downspouts so that rainwater goes into the ground rather than into a sewer. This reduces the amount of water going directly into sewers.
  • Reduce water use in your household. This helps avoid overflow problems at some municipal sewage treatment plants that may cause untreated sewage to enter lakes and rivers.
  • Make sure that any washrooms added to your home are properly connected to the sanitary sewer pipes.
  • Don’t discharge backwash from your pool onto a road. Pool water should be discharged either to the sanitary sewer, or across the lawn to the storm sewer, three days after the last chemical application. By allowing pool water to flow across a lawn, some water will be lost through infiltration and most pool chemicals will evaporate into the air.
  • Consider a driveway of crushed or interlocking stone. An open surface driveway such as this reduces the amount of stormwater entering the sewer system. It also replenishes ground-water.
  • In agricultural areas, fence livestock away from streams and give them alternative sources of water. This benefits the health of both the herd and the environment.
  • Make sure that runoff from feedlots and manure piles is properly contained.
  • Upgrade septic systems and keep them in good working order.

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