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Why Beaches Are Posted

Swimmers sitting on dock by waterIt can be upsetting to arrive at a public beach on a hot summer day only to find a message posted on a sign that warns bathers it is unsafe to swim because of potential health risks.

Why are beaches posted?

Public beaches are posted when the water contains high levels of bacteria (germs) called Escherichia coli (E.coli). High amounts of E.coli in the water are an indicator of the presence of more serious, illness-causing organisms. Problems can range from minor eye, skin, ear, nose and throat infections to more serious illnesses such as gastrointestinal sickness.

Sometimes a beach will be posted due to other environmental contaminants that could affect the health and safety of swimmers. These include floating garbage, oils, scum, excessive weed growth, algae blooms, bad odours, or murky water.

Who decides when a beach should be posted?

Beach warning signGenerally, the local Health Unit will decide to post large yellow 'Warning' signs on a beach when test results indicate higher than acceptable levels of bacteria such as E.coli. On occasion, a beach may also be posted due to other problems.

Beaches are posted when there is deemed to be a risk to swimmers, as per the Recreational Water Protocol set by Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

During the summer months, water samples are taken to monitor the bacterial levels at beaches. When the bacteria levels are higher than the acceptable level, the beach is posted.