By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit announces regular testing of 45 public beaches throughout the region from now through Labour Day.
Water samples will be collected to test for E.coli, to determine whether these beaches are safe for public use. Beach-water test results will be updated each week by late Thursday or early Friday, and posted on the health unit website. Warning signs will be put on at beaches where it’s unsafe to swim.
The health unit is bringing back its three-colour system to report these results.
Green signifies that a beach is open and safe for swimming.
Yellow is a warning that high counts of bacteria may be present in the water, and swimming may lead to illness. If people choose to swim, they should avoid dunking their heads or swallowing water.
Red means a beach is closed due to high bacteria levels that make swimming unsafe.
“We encourage you to visit us online before heading to the beach in person to see if conditions are safe for swimming,” Manager of Environmental Health Bernie Mayer said in the announcement.
“In certain circumstances, beaches can provide more than just fun and recreation. A higher bacteria count in the water can can increase the risk of getting eye, ear, nose or throat infections, or make people sick leading to stomach cramps and diarrhea.”
Mayer urges beachgoers to watch out for other warning signs that could affect water quality. High bacteria levels can persist for up to 48 hours after a heavy rainfall. High winds or wave activity can drive up bacterial counts, as can the presence of a large number of birds (such as geese or seagulls) nesting near the beach and producing fecal matter that can impact water quality.
Like last year, the health unit shares concerns about COVID-19, as well as E.coli – though the situation this year is better to some degree thanks to mass vaccination efforts and the lower risk of virus spread in the outdoors setting.
“But we must still take precautions to reduce our risk, even when visiting the beach,” Mayer said.
Stay home if you or any member of your family is sick.
Visit a beach closer to home to reduce travel and the risk of spreading the virus elsewhere.
Check with your local municipality about additional COVID-19 restrictions that may apply at a beach, and follow them.
If a beach is extremely crowded, come back when it is less busy or plan another fun activity.
Bring along hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to use at the beach, where soap and water may not be available.
Stay two metres apart from those from other households. Use items like tents, umbrellas, blankets, pool noodles or hula hoops to help keep your distance from others (and provide good visual reminders for children to do the same).