Results of E.Coli Sampling in Tiny Township’s Recreational Waters
The clear, clean water of Georgian Bay that surrounds Tiny Township is the municipality’s most precious resource. The quality of recreational water in Tiny Township, however, has received little attention. The Township has no responsibility over the waters of the Bay, the Ministry of the Environment has not been doing in depth studies of local water quality and the Simcoe County District Health Unit’s mandate confines its sampling to E. coli surveys of a few public beaches scattered along the Township’s 72 kms of shoreline.
Recreational water quality is a concern of every beach association. Without authoritative information, there is no assurance of the water quality. It was against this background that in 2001, FoTTSA decided to lead a study that would draw volunteer water samplers from their member associations, non member associations and interested individuals. The proposed sampling program was supported and encouraged by the Simcoe County District Health Unit (now the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit). It made available its own data collected at public beaches and that collected by Awenda Provincial Park and Marygrove Camp to complete the record of water quality information from around the Township. Recent Tiny Councils have responded by funding investigative work by the Severn Sound Environmental Association, and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has increased the number of public beaches it monitors and begun to do some analysis of conditions associated with high E. Coli counts. However FoTTSA continues to be concerned about the quality of our lake water and the number of beach postings each summer in Tiny Township.
Analysis: Laboratories — the provincial Laboratory in Orillia in the case of the Health Unit and Central Ontario Analytical Laboratory until 2014 and the Aquatic & Environmental Laboratory from 2016 on in the case of the volunteers — analyses each sample for the number of E. coli bacteria cfu (colony forming units) per 100 ml of water. The conditions under which the samples were taken are noted by all samplers: rainfall, wind direction, sunlight, bather density, waterfowl presence, wave action, water clarity, presence of algae. All these factors are taken into consideration when the results are assessed.
Why E.coli? E. coli is used because it is an indicator of recent fecal pollution by warm-blooded animals. In the years since the volunteer program began, research has revealed that 30-40% of E. coli in recreational water comes from permanent colonies in shore and bottom sand. Nonetheless, it remains the single best indicator of the health of swimming water. Only a few of the many kinds of E. coli cause illness in humans, but their presence indicates the possible presence of other fecal pathogens. Swimming in water with unacceptable levels of E. coli increases the risk of infections of the ears, eyes, nose and throat, or of gastrointestinal or stomach illnesses if water is swallowed. Streams often have higher counts than bay or lake water.
– sand colonies
– sewage from sewer overflows
– goose poop
– faulty septic systems
– agricultural runoff
– large populations of water fowl
– dog dirt
Sampling Details Until 2004 all volunteer samples were taken according to the Health Unit’s protocol — from water at a depth of a metre to a metre and a half; in 2004, as later, a couple of beaches also sampled shallower, toddler-depth water. The stream samples were taken as the Health Unit advised. Samples are taken once a week, usually on the day immediately after a weekend. Every sampling year, the volunteers attend a brush-up session a week or so before sampling begins for the nine weeks of the summer. The volunteers take spaced individual samples to get a sense of water quality at specific points along the shore.
Beach postings The Health Unit typically takes five or six samples at each beach (as do the Park and Camp) spaced 50 to 100 feet or so apart. The geometric mean (a type of average that minimises the effect of very high or very low numbers) of the results from samples taken at a particular beach is then calculated. When the geometric mean of the sampling results exceeds 100 E. coli cfu, beach posting is considered in relation to recorded data on beach water conditions. We note that in 2016, posting was advised only twice, when the geometric mean at Concession 13 West Beach was 174 and 371 on August 17 and August 23. The signs normally remain posted at the beach until sample testing shows the risk to bathers is once again within acceptable limits. Posting was not recommended at several other beaches when the geometric means were only slightly above 100, namely 102, 103, 107, and 101, or when a high count came at the end of the summer. Beach postings often occur after rainstorms. Rain washes fecal material from livestock, cats, dogs, birds and other wildlife into ditches and sewers and thence into rivers and lakes. Also, high winds and waves stir up sediments and shore sand and may increase E. coli counts for a day or two.
What You Can Do to Improve Water Quality:
– Pet owners should “stoop and scoop.”
– Septic systems should be kept in good working order.
– In agricultural areas, livestock should be kept away from streams and provided with alternate water sources.
– Runoff from feedlots and manure piles must be properly contained.
What About My Beach?
- consult the results at the top of this page to see if your beach has participated
- speak to your association president about your results or about participating in the next program (2020)
- if your beach does not have an association, contact us directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more:
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit – Understanding Beach Water Quality
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit – 2013 Report on Recreational Water Surveillance Program
Field Study by Western University 2013 – “Characterization of groundwater and water quality (nutrient and E. Coli) at Tiny Beaches”
Severn Sound Environmental Association 2008 Report: “Conclusions: Sources of E. coli and Factors Affecting Beach Quality”
Environment Canada Studies: E. coli at Tiny Township’s Beaches 2007
Environment Canada’s Studies 2005-2007 : Powerpoint E. coli & Tiny Township’s Beaches
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit: Beach Water Study, Tiny Township 2003-2005
Severn Sound Environmental Association: Tiny Beaches Investigation 2005
Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation Southern Georgian Bay Stewardship Guide 2013
FoTTSA: Letter to Tiny Council 2005
FoTTSA Presentation to Tiny Council: Water Results 2001-2004
FoTTSA Deputation to Tiny Council 2002: Recommendations to Improve Water Quality
Tiny Cottager Articles on Water Quality
Fall 2016: Swimming Water Quality Reassuring
Spring 2016: Volunteer Water Sampling
Fall 2014: Climate Change Impacts Tiny’s Streams
Spring 2014: Time to Check the Quality of our Swimming Water