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Monitoring the Water at Halton's Beaches

 

Halton Region monitors public beaches to help ensure safe water quality for swimmers. Learn about testing procedures and how you can help keep our area beaches clean for everyone's enjoyment.

Beach Water Monitoring Results

During the summer months, the Halton Region Health Department monitors water quality at selected recreational beaches in Halton Region. This is done as part of the Region’s commitment to protect the safety, health and well-being of all Halton residents.

Beaches in Halton are selected for monitoring based on how often they are used for swimming and other water sports.

Halton Region's beach water monitoring program has ended for 2018 and will begin again in June 2019.

Icon of a stick person swimming in water circled in green. This icon indicates that it's safe to swim.

When is a beach posted safe for swimming?

  • E. coli test results are within the Ministry guideline.
  • Swimming in these waters is not likely to increase the risk of illness or infections
Icon of a stick person swimming in water circled in red with a cross through it. This icon indicates that it is not safe to go swimming.

When is a beach posted unsafe for swimming?

  • E. coli test results exceed the Ministry guideline.
  • Swimming in these waters may increase the risk of illness or infections

Notes about beach water quality results

  • Read the signs/notices posted at the beach before going in the water.
  • Water quality conditions reflect E. coli counts on the date of water sample collection.
  • Beach water quality can change day-to-day, even hour-to-hour, following a heavy rainfall, high winds or wave activity.
  • Avoid swimming if the water is cloudy (you cannot see your feet when standing at waist depth of an adult).

Map of Halton beaches

Beach Water Monitoring Frequently Asked Questions

Frequency of use for swimming and other water activities determines which beaches get selected for monitoring.

The Health Department monitors public beaches to protect swimmers from illnesses linked to unsafe water quality. Swimming in water with large amounts of algae or other debris can be a hazard. Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria can cause an increased risk of:

  • Infection in ears, eyes, nose and throat
  • Gastrointestinal or stomach illnesses when water is swallowed
  • A minimum of five water samples per beach are collected once a week
  • Samples are analyzed for E. coli bacteria by the Provincial Public Health Laboratory. The results of the water samples indicate the quality of the beach water at the time the beach was sampled.
  • During sampling algae growth is monitored by visual observation of the water

A beach is considered unsafe in situations that may include but are not limited to:

  • Average level of E. coli greater than the Ministry guideline of 200 E. coli/100mL of water, or a single sample of E. coli higher than the Ministry guideline of 400 E. coli/100mL of water;
  • Chemical, oil, sewage or other waste spill;
  • Waste water treatment plant bypass (unintentional or controlled);
  • Blue-green algae bloom (confirmed by visual observation or laboratory test);
  • Heavy algae growth or accumulation other than blue-green algae;
  • Fish or other wildlife die-off at the beach; or
  • Visible debris, metal, or sharp objects in the water or beach area

To alert bathers to the potential of a higher than normal risk of infection, a warning sign is posted by the Local Municipality advising the users that the water may be unsafe for swimming. Postings are removed once sample results indicate the levels of bacteria are within acceptable limits.

  • Seasonal and storm surface run-off into rivers and lakes
  • Pet waste run-off
  • Large populations of waterfowl (geese, seagulls, etc.)
  • Warm water temperatures
  • Malfunctioning private sewage disposal systems
  • Boating wastes
  • Agricultural manure run-off

You can do your part to keep Halton beaches clean by:

  • not feeding animals or birds
  • observing local "stoop and scoop" by-laws and always pick up your pets waste
  • practicing pollution-free boating and disposing of human waste appropriately
  • keeping your private sewage disposal system in good working order

Check for weekly sampling results by visiting Halton's Beach Water Monitoring Results or call us directly at:

  • 311
  • 905-825-6000
  • TTY 905-827-9833
  • toll free 1-866-4HALTON (1-866-442-5866)

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae off a coast-line and dock.

What is blue-green algae?

In high amounts, these naturally occurring organisms present themselves as a green paint-like discolouration on the water surface. Visible surface blooms form in the late summer and early fall if temperatures and nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen) reach the right levels.

Blue-green algae blooms may contain toxins harmful to humans and animals. Keep in mind that even without surface blooms, toxins could still be present in the water.

Health effects of coming into contact with blue-green algae

Direct skin contact may cause skin irritation and itching. If swallowing occurs, watch for these symptoms:

  • headaches
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea, and/or vomiting

What to do if you see blue-green algae in the water

  • For your safety, assume it is toxic blue-green algae
  • Do not drink, swim or wade in the water
  • Do not allow your pets to use the water
  • Do not eat fish caught in the water
  • Call the Halton Region Health Department at 905-825-6000 ext. 7884
  • Call the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Spills Action Centre at 416-325-3000 or 1-800-268-6060

Visit Province of Ontario’s Blue-green algae (external link) for more information.

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