Recreational water use is popular in Grey and Bruce counties. These activities can deliver important benefits to health and well-being. Yet, there is the possibility of injury or illness resulting from recreational use if the water is polluted or unsafe. Human illness and infection can be caused by organisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) that may be present in pools, spas/hot tubs, and natural bodies of water.
Beaches in Grey and Bruce County have a history of being safe. However, water quality can change from day to day or even hour to hour depending on the weather and other conditions. High bacteria levels usually occur due to weather-related events. The health unit encourages beach goers to make an informed decision about beach water quality in real time before you go swimming. You are the best judge of whether the water is safe to swim!
When using any beach it is wise to assess the risk before entering the water. You can judge the water quality yourself by answering the following 4 simple questions:
Do not swim
If you answered YES to any one of the 4 questions you should NOT swim. The water may have high levels of bacteria that could increase the risk of skin, eye, ear, nose and throat infections or gastrointestinal illness.
Avoid swallowing beach water no matter how clear the water looks!
Remember, you should never swim during a thunderstorm or when there are high winds and waves.
For more beach safety tips go to The Canadian Red Cross
NOTE: The results shown are taken monthly and measure the E. coli per 100 ml of beach water. The results will be used to track long term trends in water quality. The decision to swim should be based on real time conditions and not the monthly test results.
Beaches at Provincial Parks are monitored by the local authority.
Beaches are selected for monitoring based on their use for swimming and other water activities. Grey Bruce Health Unit monitors the quality of the water at public beaches based on the Operational Approaches for Recreational Water Guideline, 2018 (gov.on.ca)
A public beach is defined as any public bathing area owned and/or operated by a municipality which the general public has direct access, and where there is reason to believe that there is recreational use of the water (e.g. beach signage, sectioned off swimming area, water safety/rescue equipment) which may result in waterborne illness or injury as determined by the local medical officer of health.
The Grey Bruce Health unit collects monthly water samples primarily to track ongoing beach water quality and to monitor for the long term impacts of climate change.
Due to a 24 hour delay in obtaining water sample results from the lab, sampling provides limited assistance in determining the level of risk posed by recreational water to the users of the beach. This delay limits the usefulness of these results in making decisions about whether it is safe to swim. For this reason, the health unit promotes real-time monitoring of conditions at the time of use, such as water turbidity and recent rainfall, as the best way to assess water safety.
Water is tested for E.coli bacteria. Based on historical data, swimmers could expect the E. coli concentration to exceed 200 CFU/100 mL if there has been rainfall in the last 24 to 48 hours and/or the water is turbid or cloudy.
Beaches are posted if the Health Unit believes that there may be a risk to the public when the levels of E.coli exceed the federal guidelines. These guidelines are as follows:
The posting is lifted when sample results indicate the risk has been reduced to a safe level.
A beach will be posted with extra signs when the beach is not safe for swimming. The signs are displayed in prominent positions at the beach to warn bathers of the danger.
Beaches are posted if the Health Unit believes that there may be a risk to the public when the levels of E.coli exceed (or are predicted to exceed) the federal guidelines (200 E.coli per 100mL of beach water) and other factors such as the environmental conditions.
Beach warning signs are removed after the E.coli levels or conditions return to acceptable levels.
Note: Beaches are only monitored for E. coli levels; there may be other harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites in the water.
Key Beach Safety Messages
You can help keep the beaches clean by following these few simple tips:
For more information regarding the monitoring of public bathing beaches, please contact Public Health at 376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456.
Ontario regulations and guidelines set out minimum standards to provide clear, clean water and safe conditions for bathers in public swimming pools, spas, wading pools, and water slides. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and some parasites can survive in these facilities and may cause eye, ear, throat, and skin infections along with respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. Injury or death may result from physical hazards, such as broken or missing drain covers which can cause severe cuts, entrapment, and evisceration.
Public health inspectors perform routine inspections of these facilities and work with the operators to prevent and reduce the risk of water-borne illnesses and injury or death. All pools and spas are inspected at least once every three months for year-round facilities, with a minimum of 2 times per year for seasonal facilities.
Summary inspection results are available at Check It
Owners and operators of pools, spas and Class C facilities (public Spray/splash pads, wading pools and Receiving basin’s at the bottom water slides) are required by law to operate and maintain their facility according to Ontario Regulation 565 – Public Pools under the Health Protection and Promotion Act R.S.O. 1990, c.H.7. The Technical Standards and Safety Association has authority over and enforces water slide safety.
At least 14 days before re-opening a recreational water facility, the owner or operator is to notify the health unit. Notification of Recreational Water Facility Opening
Please see the regulations, operator’s manuals, fact sheets and guidance documents for more information. If you require further assistance, please contact the Grey Bruce Health Unit.
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