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Tip Before Taking a Dip

- Weekly Beach Testing Program Starts This Summer; Residents Urged to Watch for Signs That Beach Water Safe to Use -

Look before you leap into the water at local beaches this summer.

As it starts its 2016 beach testing program, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is advising both local residents and visitors to be watchful for signs that the water is safe for swimming at beaches in Haliburton County.

This summer, the most obvious sign that a beach is unsafe for public use is a large sign with the word ‘WARNING’ written on it. These ‘WARNING’ signs will be put up by the Health Unit along beaches that are posted as unsafe to use, due to test results showing high counts of E.coli bacteria present in the water. In these situations, swimming at the beach is discouraged as the water is considered unsafe for public use.

“It’s important to heed the advice of these ‘WARNING’ signs if you see one at a local beach this summer, and avoid going into the water,” says Frances Tsotsos, a Public Health Inspector with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Under certain circumstances, beaches can provide more than just fun and recreation. They can also pose a health risk for swimmers.”

The Health Unit will remove ‘WARNING’ signs from a beach once testing shows E.coli bacterial levels in the water are within safe guidelines.

However, people going to a beach should also look out for other factors that could affect the water quality. “Heavy rain, high winds or wave activity, and a large number of birds such as geese or seagulls nesting near the beach can drive up bacterial counts in the water, making it unsafe for public use,” Tsotsos says. “Other warning signs, like floating debris, oil, discoloured water, bad odours and excessive weed growth, can also suggest the beach is unsafe for swimming.”

Starting this week, and continuing through the end of August, Health Unit staff will take weekly water samples at public beaches in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Water samples from these beaches will be sent to the public health lab in Peterborough to test for bacteria such as E.coli. Based on test results, the Health Unit will determine if the water quality at a beach is safe for swimming and public use. If bacterial levels in the water are higher than those considered acceptable by the Ontario government, the beach will be posted as unsafe for swimming.

Beach test results will be available by late Thursday or early Friday each week through June, July and August. To access the results:

• Call your local Health Unit office or phone the toll-free line at 1-866-888-4577
• Visit the Health Unit website and click on the ‘Beach Test Results’ link.

•Follow the Health Unit on Twitter or Facebook.

For media inquiries, contact:
Frances Tsotsos, Public Health Inspector, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 457-1391 or toll-free: 1-866-888-4577, ext. 3233.

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