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Health Unit says to be informed before swimming at public beaches

July 15, 2022   ·   0 Comments

With the summer finally here, many people enjoy heading to the beach to relax, cool down, and enjoy an afternoon.

If you decide to head to the beach, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is advising residents to check the beach advisory section of the Health Unit’s website as water quality for swimming can be affect by a number of different conditions.

During the summer, over 50 designated public beaches in Simcoe Muskoka are sampled for E. coli bacteria.

When bacteria levels exceed Ontario guidelines, there may be higher than normal risk of illness or infection and the beach is posted with a swimming advisory to let people know of a potential risk.

The swimming advisory remains posted until sample testing shows bacteria is once again within acceptable limits.

In rare cases, the beach will be closed if a significant risk to health and safety has been identified.

Even if there is no advisory posted, beach-goers are reminded that water quality can change from day to day and even hour to hour depending on the weather and lake conditions.” said Karen Kivilahti, manager of the health unit’s Safe Water Program. “The latest available information posted on the health unit’s website may not reflect the real-time conditions at the beach, so it is important to know what environmental factors to be aware of and how to minimize your risk.”

Rain is the biggest factor to impact beach water quality as it washes everything off of surrounding surfaces, including bird and dog feces, garbage, and chemicals, and puts it into the water.

It is advisable to avoid swimming for 24 to 48 hours after a heavy rainfall. If you do go swimming, avoid placing your head under water and never swallow the water.

You can also do some self-checks before going into the water. In larger bodies of water, high winds can build up large waves which can stir up sand and silt that can result in higher levels of bacteria. If you the water is cloudy and you cannot see your feet while standing in waste deep water, bacteria levels may be higher and it is best to avoid swimming.

Warm, shallow, slow moving bodies of water and wet sand are other breeding grounds for E. coli and other bacteria.

The presence of waterfowl can have a significant impact on water quality.

If you plan on swimming in a natural water body, you should view the current beach advisories before planning your day.

By Brian Lockhart

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