Have you read the signs at our CK beaches? What do they mean and when is it safe to swim?

Beach Advisory Sign posted at Erieau Public Beach

The sun is shining, the car is packed, and you’re ready for a fun day at the beach! Before you and your family jump in the water and cool off you have a thought—Is the water safe to swim? Before hitting the beach, read through these frequently asked questions so you can be sure you are always swimming safe!

How do I know if the water is safe to swim?Chatham-Kent beach with a dock and trees visable

To make sure you’re swimming safe this summer—keep your eye on the sky! Periods of heavy rain and strong winds lead to elevated bacteria levels which could make you sick. We recommend that you NOT swim within 24 hours of a period of heavy rain or strong winds, so that bacteria levels in the water to settle to a safe level.

Did you know that water clarity is another thing to watch for at the beach. If you’re standing in water and the water is too cloudy to see your feet, that’s a good indicator that high bacteria levels are a possibility. Calm clear water is associated with low bacteria levels and is the safest for swimming.

What do the signs posted at beaches mean?

Our public beaches in CK are permanently posted with advisory signs. These signs remind you that swimming during or directly after bad weather conditions could possibly make you sick because bacteria levels might be high. Remember, the choice whether to swim or not is up to you. Make the safe choice and wait at least 24 hours after heavy rain or strong winds.

What about the beach water test results?

We take monthly beach water samples at nine public beaches. These tests are typically taken on a Monday and we receive the results by Thursday of that same week. The results of these tests are posted to our website on Friday. These results show what the bacteria levels were like at the time the samples were taken. Our sample data dates back 30 years. After analyzing this data, we found a trend that shows bacteria levels are typically higher after periods of heavy rain or strong winds.

Should I use beach sample results to decide if it is safe to swim?

No. Beach sample results represent the bacteria levels at the time the samples were taken. By the time we receive the results, the bacteria levels at the beach may have changed. Bacteria levels in our water can change in as little as 24 hours. There is no guarantee that a satisfactory sample taken 3 days prior is an accurate representation of the current water conditions. That’s why CK Public Health recommends that you don’t swim after periods of adverse weather. Don’t use sample results as an indicator of safe water.

Why Does CK Public Health sample public beaches monthly?

Our historical data from beach samples and environmental surveys indicate CK beaches have consistent water quality season to season. Additionally, our beaches our permanently posted with advisory signs, reminding you to monitor weather conditions.

When are the beaches closed?

We don’t close beaches based on our monthly water sample results, but we will close beaches when there is an immediate risk to the health of the public. Examples could include; Blue green algae blooms, chemical or sewage contamination, physical hazards, or any condition likely to affect health. When beaches are closed, the advisory signs will be switched to a closure sign and access to the beach may be restricted.

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