Concerned about water quality after last week's massive flooding, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper staff spent most of Friday collecting water samples from popular recreation spots in Toronto.
We visited Woodbine-Ashbridges Bay and Sunnyside beaches, as well as Sugar Beach Park, Harbourfront, the site of the upcoming Triathlon, and the mouth of the Humber River. We grabbed water samples to look for E. coli and Total Coliform - E. coli is the type of bacteria that Ontario health authorities look for when deciding whether to post a beach as safe (green) or unsafe (red); it is considered a better indicator of human sewage than other types of bacteria because it is found in mammals. Total Coliform includes different kinds of bacteria and is not necessarily harmful - but it is a sign that water is not pristine. Generally, E. coli levels should be under 100 and Total Coliform should be under 1,000.
Here is a very preliminary overview of our sample results -
We have good news for Toronto Triathlon participants. Sample results there easily met Ontario water quality standards. E. coli was 15-20 and Total Coliform was between 60 and 90.
Things were not so good in the west end. Sunnyside Beach - the beach closest to the Humber River sewage treatment plant that lost power during the flood - had E. coli levels that were off the charts. Our testing method maxes out at 2,000 (20 times Ontario water quality standards for E. coli and 2 times higher for Total Coliform), so all we know is that we found "more than" 2,000 E. coli and Total Coliform there.
Bacteria levels can change significantly very quickly, so what we found on Friday will no longer be accurate today. The City of Toronto has reopened Sunnyside beach, though we would strongly encourage people to use caution if going in the water. Marie Curtis Park and Gibraltar were also reopened, but these beaches barely meet water quality standards (they are in the high 90s).
We need a bit more time to review sample results from the other locations. Details and photos will be available soon.