Beach Safety

Learn about the risks of waterborne illnesses and injuries which will help you decide whether you should swim in the water or stay on the beach.

Where can I find information about public beaches in my area?
What beaches do you monitor and how often?
What do you test for?
How do I know if the water is safe for swimming?
Where does contamination come from?
How does beach water quality affect you and your family?
Tips for the beach

Where can I find information about public beaches in my area?

We can tell you if and when the water at your beach is monitored and where the results can be found. If beach results show higher than acceptable levels of contamination, the beach must post warning or closure signs.  If a sign is posted, it is important you read the sign and follow the warnings. For your safety, please don’t ignore any signs that are posted.

For information regarding public beaches in Windsor-Essex County, you can contact the beach hotline at 519-258-2146 ext. 420 or by visiting our beach results page.

What beaches do you monitor and how often?

A map of Essex County showing the location of the ten monitored beaches.

Health Inspectors at the Health Unit monitor 10 public beaches within the area. A list of the beaches and the results may be found online or by calling our beach hotline. Each week from mid-June to mid-September, we take five samples from each beach and submit these samples to the public health lab in London, Ontario for bacteriological testing.

What do you test for?

Every week, an environmental assessment is done to determine if there are any signs of contamination or hazards. The water samples taken are tested for levels of E.coli, which are bacteria, very small in size that are found in fecal contaminated water. The presence of E. coli in the water may also indicate there are other harmful microorganisms present. Find out more about our beach results.

How do I know if the water is safe for swimming?

The water at the beach may look clean, but it may not be safe for swimming. Before diving in, it’s good to find out what the beach results are and assess the beach for possible signs of contamination. Often our beaches are safe for swimming; however, your beach water may contain disease-causing bacteria that you cannot see. When the water samples have E. coli counts of 100cfu/ml or higher, the beach is posted to warn people of the higher bacterial levels and risks. Beaches are closed when the sample has counts higher that 1000cfu/ml.

Where does contamination come from?

Contamination in our beach water is often much higher during and immediately after rain storms because water draining into the beach may carry sewage from over-flowing sewage treatment systems. Rain water may also flow into our beaches after running off lawns, farms, streets, construction sites, and other urban areas.  The runoff water may pick up animal waste, fertilizer, pesticides, trash, and many other pollutants before running into the water. Strong wind and rain may create rough water, causing sediments and bacteria in the lake bottom to become churned up.

How does beach water quality affect you and your family?

Water can be contaminated by many different things such as trash, picnic plates, plastic bags, bottles, and cigarette butts, and other things that can’t be seen (e.g. microorganisms). If you and your family are exposed to disease-causing organisms, they may make you sick.  Sore throats, skin rashes, ear infections, and diarrhea are some of the illnesses you may suffer from after swimming or playing in unsafe water.

Tips for the beach:

  • Avoid swimming during and after heavy rain and wind.
  • Large waves and cloudy water may indicate higher levels of bacteria. Avoid swimming if the water is cloudy and you can’t see your feet.
  • Look for storm drains and avoid swimming near them. These pipes drain polluted water from streets and may end up in the beach water. 
  • Look for trash and other signs of pollution, such as oil leaks.
  • Large amount of birds and animals in and around the swimming area may also contaminate the beach.

If you think a beach is contaminated or you think you may have become ill from beach water, contact us at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475.  It is important we know about suspected beach water contamination, so we can help protect you from harmful exposure.

For additional information about beach safety and waterborne illnesses, visit:

http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/swimming/resources/epa-before-you-go-to-beach-brochure.pdf

References

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1997). Before you go to the beach. Retrieved from http: //www. cdc.gov/ healthywater/pdf/swimming/resources/epa-before-you-go-to-beach-brochure.pdf

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