Two London-region beaches flagged for high bacteria levels

If you’re thinking of heading to a Southwestern Ontario beach this weekend to escape the heat, double-check before you dip.

Two popular Lake Erie beaches in the region – Little Beach at Port Stanley and Port Burwell Provincial Park – have been flagged by public health officials after weekly tests detected high levels of E. coli bacteria in the water at the two locations.

“We haven't got updated (water) samples, so swimming is still not recommended at those two sites," Susan MacIsaac, director of health protections at the public health office for Elgin and Oxford counties, said Friday.

A bacteria found in human and animal intestines and feces, among other places, E. coli can be washed into waterways during heavy rainstorms and wind up in the water at beaches, making them unsafe for swimming with an increased risk of skin, eye, ear, nose or throat infections or stomach illness.

MacIsaac, at Southwestern Public Health, said elevated E. coli levels can come from a "variety of things," including farm runoff, defective septic systems and sewage treatment plant overflows.

Bird feces, especially from seagulls and geese, can also contaminate the water at beaches.

Six other area beaches monitored by Southwestern Public Health for water quality are all fine for swimming from latest testing, including the main beach at Port Stanley.

Farther afield in the region, along Lake Huron, Lambton Public Health said all beaches in its territory, which includes Grand Bend and Pinery Provincial Park, are cleared for swimming.

If you plan to visit a beach with an E. coli warning, Southwestern Public Health recommends avoiding dunking your head in the water or swallowing it.

Beach postings can be checked by going to the website of the public health office for the area you are visiting.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press