Environment officials raise concerns about water quality near Toronto’s beaches
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 2:58PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 17, 2017 6:53PM EDT
Officials from an environmental group are raising concerns about the water quality along Toronto’s beaches in the aftermath of recent flooding.
Toronto Public Health doesn’t start testing for E.coli levels until June, but the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper group says they’ve been keeping an eye on the beaches after heavy rainfall caused lake levels to spike.
Officials say their concerns lie in the large pools that have formed on and around the beach.
“If you're concerned about health, particularly for young children, what you want to look out for is water that isn't moving… standing or stagnant water,” Lake Ontario Waterkeeper vice-president Krystyn Tully said.
“So if you’ve got pools of water that are warmer than the lake water around them… if they're murky, have algae, if they smell funny... that's a sign that water may not be as clean as the lake water.”
The group says there are already concerns about the water quality at Toronto's Harbourfront.
“The system we have in Toronto, the storm water and sewage mixes together under ground, so the more it rains, the more the snow melts, the more water enters the system and the more sewage flows into the harbor,” Tully said.
Despite this, eight of Toronto’s 11 public swimming beaches were recognized Wednesday for meeting an international organization’s standards for water quality, cleanliness and safety.
Bluffer’s Park Beach, Cherry Beach, Woodbine Beach, Kew-Balmy Beach, Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach and Ward’s Island Beach are among 27 beaches across the country that received the Blue Flag award.
The awards are granted to beaches and marinas that meet international standards in four categories including water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety and services.
“Millions of people around the world look for the Blue Flag when choosing a beach or marina to visit. And there’s a good reason for that,” Brett Tryon, Blue Flag’s program manager with Environmental Defence, said in a statement.
“A Blue Flag means that a beach or marina is clean, sustainably managed, and meets high safety standards. It is truly a symbol of excellence.”
But Lake Ontario Waterkeepers say the prestigious award doesn’t necessarily speak to the current water quality levels – especially after this spring’s flooding.
Tully says the Blue Flag status is awarded on an annual basis and therefore did not have a chance to consider the cleanliness of Toronto’s beaches after two weeks of heavy rain.
That same rain forced the city to close much of Toronto Island Park to the general public yesterday as water levels continue to rise.
All three beaches on the island – including Hanlan’s Point, Gibraltar Point and Centre Island beaches -- are reportedly under water and will also be closed until further notice.
Ferry access to Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point has been suspended and only residents, employees and city crews are permitted to use the Ward’s Island ferry.
The flooding has forced many business and public areas on the island to close or relocate, including Centreville amusement park and Electric Island music festival.
Mayor John Tory told reporters at city hall on Wednesday that the island will likely remain closed for some time.
“They told me two weeks ago that the water levels were going to continue to rise and indeed it seems to be happening much as they said,” Tory said on Wednesday. “We are keeping an eye on it day by day, I get briefed on it every day and we will have to sort of see what seems prudent to do in the circumstances.”