Recent water quality tests in both Toronto and Vancouver indicate that two of the cities' most popular beaches are not currently safe for swimming. Hanlan's Point Beach in the Toronto Islands and False Creek near downtown Vancouver have both tested positive for high levels of E. coli bacteria.
Until yesterday, the waters at Hanlan's Point have met the provincially established safety standards for swimming. But, Toronto's latest SwimSafe update says that "heavy rainfall and declining weather conditions indicate an increasing trend in E. coli levels." The last time Hanlan's Point was unsafe for swimming was over a month ago, on June 4th.
The presence of E. coli bacteria in water is often the result of human or animal fecal matter contamination. E. coli is a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness, infections and skin rashes. According to APEC Water Systems, heavy rainfall can cause E. coli to wash into creeks, rivers, lakes and groundwater.
Yesterday's E. coli levels haven't been posted, but anything over 100 E.coli per 100 millilitres of water is considered unsafe for swimming. In the last three weeks, E. coli levels at Hanlan's Point have been between 10 and 60.
Other Toronto beaches that are currently marked unsafe are Kew Balmy Beach, Sunnyside Beach and Marie Curtis Park East Beach - these beaches are the location pins marked in red on this map:
Meanwhile in Vancouver, False Creek has tested almost quadruple the limit for safe swimming. Vancouver Coastal Health indicates that waters at False Creek are four times the level of 200 E. coli per 100 ml of water.
Pollution at False Creek hit a record high in May, and has continued to soar all summer long. Health authorities told the Vancouver Sun that there could be a number of possible explanations for the skyrocketing levels of E. coli in the water.
“The lack of tidal flush in certain areas, increased human and animal activity and hot weather" can speed up the growth of bacteria. Many boats and marinas also pump raw sewage into False Creek, which the city is cracking down on with stricter bylaws and increased signage.