Our lakes are great places to relax, cool down, and have some family time during our summer. But bacterial infections such as E. coli can put a damper on the fun. Our role is to monitor public beaches within the city and district (with the exception of beaches within provincial parks) and alert the public of high levels of E. coli and other hazards which may make swimming unsafe for the public.
What We Do
Public Health Inspectors from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) monitor public lakes throughout the summer in both the City of Thunder Bay and throughout the District to measure E. coli levels and inspect for other health hazards.
- We sample for water quality at three beaches supervised by the City of Thunder Bay weekly from the end of June to the end of August. These beaches include the Main Beach at Boulevard Lake and two beaches at Chippewa Park (Main Beach and Sandy Beach).
- Outside of Thunder Bay, we sample for water quality at district beach locations once in July and once in August. See below for a list of district beaches.
City of Thunder Bay Beaches
New Signs at City of Thunder Bay Beaches
In the past, the TBDHU would ask the City of Thunder Bay to post advisory signs if water quality tests indicated that the levels of E. coli in the water made swimming unsafe. The sign would then be removed if test results improved.
Beginning this summer (2017) we will be posting new permanent swimming advisory signs at Boulevard Lake and Chippewa Park beaches letting the public know of the potential risk of E. coli in the water. The signs will inform the public of the likelihood that the water has elevated levels of E. coli, based on five years of previous water quality tests. The new signs will help the public make decisions about the risk of harm to their health due to E. coli at any time they are considering a swim.
Why the change?
The previous signs only provided a snapshot of the E. coli levels at the time the sample was taken. However, it takes one to two days to get the results of the water quality test and water conditions can change quickly. So the advisory sign may not have been an accurate reflection of the current water quality.
Instead, the new signs will provide people with a long-term summary of E. coli test results over the past five years. People can use that information to decide if they want to swim at that beach.
What the public will see
The signs posted at Boulevard Lake and Chippewa Park beaches will show the percentage of water quality tests that indicated elevated levels of E. coli.
|Beach||Sign||What it means|
|Boulevard Lake Main Beach||64 water quality tests were conducted over the past five years and 20 showed elevated levels of E. coli. This means that approximately 30% of the time, Boulevard Lake Main Beach had elevated levels of E. coli.|
|Chippewa Park Main Beach||56 water quality tests were conducted over the past five years and 25 showed elevated levels of E. coli. This means that approximately 40% of the time, Chippewa Park Main Beach had elevated levels of E. coli.|
|Chippewa Park Sandy Beach||53 water quality tests were conducted over the past five years and 5 showed elevated levels of E. coli. This means that approximately 10% of the time, Chippewa Park Sandy Beach had elevated levels of E. coli.|
Swimming Advisory Signs
The TBDHU will continue to use temporary advisory signs at district beaches as these beaches rarely have elevated levels of E. coli. If a water quality test shows elevated E. coli levels, a sign will be posted and then removed when further tests show the levels are no longer elevated. See below for a list of the beaches monitored.
What is the risk of elevated levels of E.coli?
- Swimming in water that contains higher levels of E. coli increases the risk of developing minor skin, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, or gastrointestinal illness.
Will the TBDHU close beaches?
Beach closures are rare. A beach closure (as opposed to an advisory) is issued when an immediate and significant health hazard is present. This could be a sewage spill, a toxic chemical release or a visible bloom of blue-green algae in the water. Should this happen, the public will be informed through local media, including social media. Beach closure signs will also be posted.
Reducing the Risk of Infection
To reduce your risk of infection or illness at a public beach:
- Avoid swimming 24-48 hours after heavy rainfalls. Rain can carry bacteria from the street, parking lot and shoreline and flush it into our beaches causing potential contamination
- Avoid swallowing beach water at all times
- Assume swimmer's itch is present and always towel off after a swim and shower once at home
- Do not feed birds and place garbage in the garbage cans provided
- Keep in mind that E. coli tests can take up to 24 hours, so an advisory is based on the results of samples taken on the previous day
- The advisory sign (or lack of an advisory sign) may not reflect the current conditions present in the water because E. coli levels in recreational water can vary from hour to hour
List of Beaches
- Boulevard Lake - Main (Lakeview)
- Chippewa Park - Main Beach and Sandy Beach
- Shuniah - Wild Goose Beach, O'Connor Point, West Loon Lake
- Neebing - Cloud Lake, West Oliver Lake, East Oliver Lake
- Nipigon - Lofquist Beach
- Schreiber - White Sand Lake Beach
- Terrace Bay - Dock Side, Pump House Beach
- Marathon - Carden Cove, Lions Penn Lake Park
- Manitouwadge - Manitouwadge Lake
- Longlac - Jeff Gauthier Memorial Park
- Geraldton - Kenogamisis Fish and Game, Geraldton Waterfront
- Nakina - Cordingly Lake
- Beardmore - Poplar Lodge
Please note: the TBDHU is not responsible for routine monitoring of private beaches or beaches within provincial parks.
For advisories about beaches at provincial parks, please visit the Ontario Parks Alerts page.
For Further Information
Call a Public Health Inspector: (807) 625-5930
or toll-free 1-888-294-6630, ext 5930