By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Due to continued high water levels in Lake Ontario, Oshawa’s Lakeview Beach West has remained untested for E. coli so far this summer.
Laura Freeland, manager of environmental health with the Durham Region Health Department, says the current levels at the beach are definitely “not normal”.
“I’ve been involved with [the beach monitoring program] for three years and I’ve never seen levels this high,” Freeland says.
The health department samples for elevated E. coli levels at the region’s 14 beaches on a weekly basis between June and September.
Beaches that produce water samples with levels of more than 100 E. coli per 100ml of water are designated as “posted” by the health department.
However, due to safety concerns stemming from the high water levels, the west beach in Oshawa has received only a status of “not tested” so far this year.
Freeland says testing will begin at Lakeview Beach West when it is deemed safe to access.
Through five weeks of testing so far this summer, Lakeview Beach East in Oshawa has been given a thumbs up from the health department
The biggest culprits for postings have been Beaverton’s North and South Beaches.
Thorah Centennial Park in Brock has been posted three times, Kinsmen Beach in Scugog twice and Elgin Pond in Uxbridge, Frenchman’s Bay West in Pickering and Newcastle Beach Central in Clarington all posted once.
Oshawa and Durham Region faced substantial rainfalls during May and June, which Freeland says is usually the type of weather that leads to beach postings.
“Generally, if there are heavy rainfalls, for 48 hours afterwards, that’s when it could affect the number of bacteria (in the water),” she says.
Freeland says elevated levels of E. Coli are caused from runoff from local lands.
“When it’s a heavy rain, it’s much more likely to cause erosion of the soil,” she says, which in turn causes more contaminants, such as animal feces, to enter into beach water.
Freeland says beaches located on smaller bodies of water will generally see more postings because they are warmer and provide a more conducive atmosphere for bacteria to flourish.
“Larger bodies of water [such as Lake Ontario] they are generally cooler,” Freeland says.
Other common reasons for a beach to be posted include physical hazards such as downed trees.
Freeland says when a beach is posted by the health department, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s closed to the public.
“People can choose to use it,” she explained, adding that when there is a risk such as blue green algae or a seriously dangerous physical hazard, then a beach will be closed officially.
The health department tests for E. coli every Monday and updates beach postings on Fridays.
For more information on the health department’s beach monitoring program and the latest beach postings, visit durham.ca.