Today Waterkeeper released its 2006 Beach Report. The Report includes information concerning beach closures at forty beaches along Lake Ontario for the 2006 bathing season. This year's report also includes a comparison of beach closures for the past three years based on Waterkeeper's ongoing monitoring program.
Beaches continue to be an area of concern in many communities along Lake Ontario - among citizens, environmental groups and politicians alike. With waterfront revitalization at the forefront of numerous political agendas, it seems that there is a keen interest to reclaim beaches for swimming in urban centres.
For the past three years, Waterkeeper has kept a daily record of which beaches have been posted as safe or unsafe for swimming. Municipalities sample for E-coli and post a beach when results indicate levels above 100 units. Waterkeeper checks beach websites and hotlines daily to keep a running tally of beach postings along the Ontario shoreline.
The following table shows what percentage of the time beaches were posted as unsafe for swimming in the past three years:
Beach Region % of times% of times% of times beaches closedbeaches closedbeaches closed 200620052004 Durham Region188.8.131.52 Hamilton38.037.243.0 Northumberland County18.528.0N/A Mississauga 13.7120 Prince Edward County11.710.3N/A St. Catharines73.263.784.7 Toronto28.442.243.6
The results above indicate that the status quo was maintained in the seven municipalities, with conditions slightly improving or worsening from the previous year. Toronto shows the most improvement from the 2005 to 2006 season - with 14% less closures this year. In 2005, Toronto was home to three of the top five most frequently closed beaches- not one of its beaches is included in this list for 2006. Waterkeeper has yet to examine reasons to account for these lower closure rates.
This year, eight beaches remained open for swimming for the entire season. They were: In Toronto, Hanlan's Point; In Durham Region, Frenchman's Bay West and Whitby Beach; In Prince Edward County, Centennial Park â€“Northport and Zwick's Island; and in Northumberland, Port Hope East and Victoria. The top five most frequently posted beaches (in order) were: Jones Beach, in St. Catharines; Bayfront Park, in Hamilton; Rotary Park, in Durham; Lakeview Beach West, in Durham; and Wicklow Beach in Northumberland.
In 2007, Waterkeeper will expand its involvement even further. Some Kingston area beaches are now being tested for E-coli on a regular basis and the sampling results will be added to our ongoing monitoring program. Continuing from this year, Waterkeeper will build on collected data from amended Ministry of Health surveys. According to the province's health policies, every municipality should be completing these surveys in order to determine the causes of their chronic beach closures. Using the Freedom of Information process, Waterkeeper discovered that in fact no municipality has ever completed one. The Ministry of Health surveys would help to examine beaches on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the multitude of reasons that might be causing closures.
As the status quo is maintained and not one municipality has met Ontario's standards for a clean beach (5% or less closure rate) in three years, the battle to reclaim Lake Ontario's beaches is not over yet. The Ministry of Health surveys would be an excellent tool for any municipality looking to answer questions pertaining to long-standing beach closures. Questions as to why closures persist must first be asked if solutions are to be found.
For all results from 2006, please see our full report