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Media Release: Public health beach water monitoring begins May 24 for 2024 season

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/May 10, 2024

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) monitors the water quality for unsafe bacteriological levels at municipally designated beaches from the end of May to the end of August each year. Beach goers are encouraged to check local beach status prior to planning a trip to the beach. For status reports of recent water sampling,  visit the Public Beaches page at hpePublicHealth.ca beginning May 24, 2024.

As part of the beach monitoring program, public health staff collect a minimum of five water samples from select beaches scheduled that week for monitoring. These samples are sent to a provincial lab and tested for levels of E. coli bacteria. E. coli is used as an indicator to monitor for the possible presence of other microbes such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus. When bacterial counts exceed provincial guidelines, warning signs are posted at the beach advising that the water is unsafe for swimming. Notices will also be sent to the media, and posted on the HPEPH website and social media accounts.

It is important for residents to recognize that water quality changes from day to day, or even hour to hour, depending on the weather and other conditions. Most beaches are tested monthly unless there is an adverse test result. In the event of an adverse test result, the beach will be re-sampled the following week. It is also important to note that it takes two to three days to receive lab results. Beach goers should always consider the following, which may impact the quality of water at a beach, before making the decision to swim:

Rainfall

  • Rain washes contaminants into streams, rivers and lakes. While small amounts of rainfall are unlikely to have much impact, bacteria levels may be higher after significant rainfall.

Wind

  • Wind can increase waves at beaches, which in turn will stir up sand and silt. When the water is cloudy, bacteria levels may be higher.

Waterfowl (gulls, geese, etc.)

  • In some smaller bodies of water, or more confined areas of large lakes, the feces of waterfowl may impact water quality, causing an increase in bacteria.

Wet sand and shallow water

  • Shallow bodies of water are likely to be warmer, and bacteria can increase quickly in warm temperatures. Bacteria levels also tend to be higher in wet sand. Be sure to use a hand sanitizer, or if possible, wash your hands after playing at the water’s edge.

In all situations mentioned above, there is an increased risk of bacteria and swimmers are advised to be aware of this increased risk if choosing to swim. Diseases acquired from contact with contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections.  The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. 

Additional information is available on the Public Beaches page at hpePublicHealth.ca. For information on the status of Provincial Park beaches in Hastings and Prince Edward counties, visit ontarioparks.com/alerts.

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Media Contact:

Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
etubbs@hpeph.ca

Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
mhyland@hpeph.ca

About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. HPEPH is situated and provides services on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Huron-Wendat and Haudenosaunee people. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite community partners and residents to share this Media Release with their respective networks.

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During and after a flood

If you have been affected by the recent flooding in Bancroft, visit Health Canada’s website for information on what to do during a flood and afterwards. Not affected? The same web page provides information on how to get prepared for the event of a flood.