contaminated beach covered with oil

This Version Posted: September 9, 2021

Looking to visit a local beach in the area this summer?

The Health Unit does regular testing of beaches in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes to ensure the water is safe for swimming. NOTE: Our testing program is complete for another year and resumes in Summer 2022.

If a beach is deemed unsafe to swim, it’s due to high counts of bacteria in the water.

Contaminated Beaches

There are a number of ways that beaches can become contaminated with bacteria. Storm water runoff, combined with sewer overflows, sewage treatment plant bypasses, agricultural runoff, faulty septic systems, and large populations of waterfowl like geese all contribute to water pollution which can result in beach postings.

When are beaches most likely to be posted?

Beach postings are most likely to occur after rain storms or prolonged hot weather. Rain water washes fecal material from cats, dogs, birds and other wildlife into storm sewers which flow directly into nearby rivers and lakes. Prolonged hot weather conditions promote the growth of the bacteria in the water.

Water temperature also has a significant effect on bacterial levels. Shallow beaches will have warmer water and a higher potential for bacterial growth.

Reducing Contamination

You can play a role in making local beaches safer to use. Here are some suggestions on how to reduce water contamination:

  • Pet owners should observe the “stoop and scoop” bylaws as domestic pet waste is a major source of bacteria in storm water.
  • Allow water from eavestroughs to discharge onto lawns. This reduces the amount of rainwater going directly into the sewer system.
  • Reduce household water use. This avoids capacity problems at sewage treatment plants that could result in untreated sewage entering lakes and rivers.
  • Fence livestock away from streams and provide them with an alternative source of water. This will benefit both the health of the herd and the environment.
  • Ensure that runoff from feedlots and manure piles are properly contained.
  • Upgrade septic systems and keep them in good working order.

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For more information, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.