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Water Today Title October 22, 2020

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This story is brought to you in part by Biomass Recycle

Those looking for a place to swim in the Thunder Bay region should make the time to drive out of the city. The presence of E. coli in the water at city beaches has become so common that the Thunder Bay District Health Unit has posted permanent swimming advisories.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit monitors public beaches for E.coli and other health hazards within the city and district between the end of June and the end of August, with the exception of those that are within provincial parks.

Boulevard Lake Beach and the two beaches at Chippewa Park; Main Beach and Sandy Beach, are city beaches that are monitored by Public Health Inspectors once a week.

Beaches outside the city are sampled once in July and once in August. The Health Unit monitors 18 swimming spots outside the city in communities like Shuniah, Terrace Bay, Neebing and Greenstone.

E. coli levels are so consistently high at city beaches that instead of issuing an advisory and rescinding it when levels fall, the Health Unit has posted permanent signage. Samples are still collected but are instead kept simply for record keeping.

The signs posted at the 3 city beaches indicate how often high levels of E. coli were present at each of the beaches over the last five years. The Health Unit says that this way the public can judge for themselves.

Boulevard Lake Main Beach and Chippewa Park Sandy Beach had elevated levels of E. coli 10% of the time while Chippewa Park Main Beach had significant E. coli levels 30% of the time.

Swimming in water contaminated with significant E. coli levels can cause gastrointestinal illness and increases the risk of skin, eye, ear and nose infections.

Although the Health Unit does not test for swimmers itch, it wishes to remind people that it is always a risk factor when swimming in untreated water. Swimmers itch is also called cercarial dermatitis and develops as a skin rash in reaction to some microscopic parasites.

Certain precautions can be taken to avoid getting an infection or illness at the beach. It is always a good idea to avoid swimming in the 24-48 hours following a heavy rainfall because bacteria can be swept into the water from the street and or parking lot.

It is also suggested that you avoid swallowing any water at the beach and shower afterward.


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