Toronto residents are being warned of the dangers of swimming in the city’s beaches this summer, as most of them are not regularly tested for water quality.
According to Gabi Parent Doliner, a member of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, only five per cent of Toronto’s waterfronts are monitored for contamination on an ongoing basis. That leaves the other 95 per cent of waterfronts possibly contaminated with potentially hazardous substances, such as pollutants, toxins, harmful bacteria and viruses.
Even though these unsupervised beaches are popular spots for scuba diving, paddle boarding and kayaking, Doliner says residents should be aware of the risks of swimming in untested waters.
“The inner harbour is susceptible to sewage. Last year the beaches like Humber Bay Park West failed about 50 per cent of the time. When beaches are chosen to be tested, things like a lifeguard are considered, but often they’re just not tested to discourage the public from going in.”
“Health risks — most of them are going to deal with your intestines — vomiting, diarrhea,” Doliner adds. “You can get skin rashes, infections and there are more scary things that can happen like contract a virus like human edema virus, something that’s more severe.”
Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are the most at risk of getting sick from swimming at the beaches.
Toronto Public Health says the City of Toronto takes water samples from the 11 supervised public beaches in the city. The samples are taken from June to Labour Day and test for E. coli bacteria to ensure levels of such in the water are low enough for safe swimming.
The waterfronts at areas like Humber Bay Park and the Toronto Islands are not within the scope of mandate of beach water testing, making them unsafe locations for swimming.
Toronto Public Health advises residents to check the Toronto website for the most updated information on swimming conditions at the city’s beaches.