Town of Cobourg Transparent About Water Quality in West Harbour

In Local

The Town of Cobourg would like to advise citizens that a Water Quality Forecast sign has been erected at the West Harbour to inform residents and visitors of the E. coli bacteria count and if the water is safe for swimming and other recreational activities.

Last week, due to higher levels of E. coli bacteria present in the West Harbour, the HKPR District Health Unit directed the Town of Cobourg to fence off the West Harbour and to post signs immediately in an effort to alert users of the high E. coli bacteria readings found in the water.

From June to the fall season, the Town of Cobourg is committed to taking weekly water samples from the West Harbour to test for E. coli bacteria. The purpose of the Water Quality Forecast sign will be to show a risk level from low to high and to advise what recreational activities are safe and what are not recommended in accordance with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit’s direction.

Levels of E. coli bacteria are measured in colony forming units (cfu). The Water Quality Forecast sign showcases a range of low, medium and high risk:

· At Low Risk (0-199 cfu) all recreational activities including swimming are considered safe.

· At Medium Risk (200-999 cfu) some activities are not recommended including swimming.

· At High Risk (1,000+ cfu) all recreational activities including swimming and non-propelled watercraft (kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, etc.) are not recommended.

According to SGS Canada Inc., a leading provider of comprehensive water quality testing that meets all provincial and national regulatory requirements, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the latest beach and harbour water quality report sampled today (August 7, 2020) showed bacteria levels at 1,195 E.coli which exceeds the provincial standard of 200 E. coli and puts the Water Quality Forecast at High Risk.

Signs posted by Cobourg, indicate that because the water inside the inner harbour is at “high risk” it is recommended that there is no swimming or kayaking/canoeing.  Yet as staff were erecting the sign there were a number of canoes and kayaks in the water.

Emergency Planner Shannon Murphy because the sign had just went up, they may not have been informed of the E. coli count.

“Each week now people won’t be guessing.  They will be very well aware when they make that decision.”

Murphy said the town is being proactive and transparent posting the results for the public.

But she adds, “there is no law that says you cannot go in the water, that is why the signs clearly states, it is “not recommended.”

West Harbour users are asked to seek out the Water Quality Forecast sign, the current level of risk as reported on the sign, what recreational activities including swimming that may not be recommended and to always proceed with caution.

If you have been swimming in West Harbour and experience such symptoms as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea please seek medical attention.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

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