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BEACHES

Great Lakes enjoyed good season for water quality, according to Swim Guild report

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press

Swimmers enjoy the water at Port Stanley. (Free Press file photo)

Swimmers enjoy the water at Port Stanley. (Free Press file photo)

Beaches in the Great Lakes this summer were more swimmable, more often, a new report says.

Water quality at Ontario beaches met clean-water standards three-quarters of the time, says The Swim Guide that tracks sampling results at almost 1,500 beaches along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin.

That’s higher than 2014 numbers. And, more significantly, the days without any data at all dropped considerably as at-least-weekly monitoring improved.

“The numbers definitely look better this year, compared to last year,” in both lakes Erie and Huron, said Krystyn Tully of The Swim Guide that operates through Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.

“The more data we get, the cleaner the lakes look.”

Water-quality information comes from tests done by conservation authorities or local health departments at least weekly from June 1 to Labour Day, and the results are posted on the swimguide.org website and smartphone app.

It’s all a good sign for Southwestern Ontario beachgoers, Tully said.

Across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence water system, beach-water quality met government standards 73% of the time last summer. In 2014, water quality met the standard only 60% of the time.

“It’s definitely worth going to the beach in Ontario,” Tully said.

The app and website show results, gleaned from the broadest range of sources, of swimming-water quality tests at thousands of beaches in North America.

More than half of the online visits were from Ontarians asking about the Great Lakes.

That’s heartening to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper that maintains that the more often people connect with water sources the more likely they are to care about the lakes and waterways where they can drink, swim and fish.

Some numbers from this year’s Swim Guide (full report at theswimguide.org)

Lake Huron, 289 beaches monitored

  • Acceptable water quality for swimming: 78% of the time
  • Tests showing water unsuitable for swimming:: 12%
  • No monitoring data: 14%
  • Top-searched beaches on the swimguide.org and the SwimGuide app: Goderich Main Beach, Wasaga Beach, Port Blake, Sauble Beach, Grand Bend South Beach

Lake Erie, 129 beaches monitored

  • Acceptable water quality for swimming: 74% of the time
  • Tests showing water unsuitable for swimming: 22%
  • No monitoring data: 4%
  • Top-searched beaches on the swimguide.org and the SwimGuide app: West Belle River, Turkey Point, Port Burwell Main Beach, Port Stanley Little Beach

Swim Guide app

  • lists beaches ranging from city parks to remote lakes
  • shows if beaches are clean for swimming (green) or have water quality problems (red)
  • provides directions to beaches
  • Apple and Android versions available
  • web link: theswimguide.org/guide/get-the-app/

 

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