As of Monday morning, July 22, due to high E. coli levels, three Ottawa beaches have been labelled no-swim zones. Residents are strongly advised by Ottawa Public Health to stay out of the water until further notice. The beach is considered swimmable if E. coli levels are under 200 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 milliliters of water.The Petrie Island River Beaches is the location at highest risk, with staggering E. coli levels of 535 cfu. Britannia Beach has much lower E. coli levels of 207 cfu. Finally, Petrie Island East Bay came in with E. coli levels of 201. Although it is just one unit over the limit, it is still considered unsafe for swimming.

Mooney’s Bay beach has the least amount of E. coli found in the water, coming in at levels of 15 cfu, which is way under the provincial limit. This means it is currently the safest beach to swim at out of all five in the city.

According to the Ottawa Riverkeeper, ingesting water with high levels of E. coli can result in gastrointestinal issues, nausea and vomiting. Other issues could be ear, eye, and skin infections.

The presence of high levels of E. coli in surface water also raises the probability of coming into contact with other dangerous viruses such as salmonella.

The high levels of contamination are usually caused by stormwater run-off after heavy rains, but can also be attributed to high bird populations or leaky sewage pipes. Water tests take about 18 hours to process in the laboratory, and the water is tested daily.

We will be staying tuned in to Ottawa Public Health for any updates on safe swimming conditions.