Water at beaches, like those along Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair, often have high levels of bacteria and other germs that can make us sick. This is especially true during warm weather and after heavy rainfall. To avoid illness it is important to be aware of water conditions before you go swimming.
Who’s at Risk
Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria and other germs can make us sick if we accidentally swallow water. It can also cause infections if germs contact open wounds or sores. Germs grow best at warm temperatures and can grow to high levels in beach water during the summer.
While everyone is at risk of waterborne illness, some people are more vulnerable than others. This includes children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions whose bodies are not as good at fighting off germs.
Things You Can Do
- Understand CK Public Health’s role in monitoring beach water quality
- Check the beach status before you go swimming
- Decide when to swim at the beach
- Practise beach safety
- Report a concern
How CK Public Health Monitors Beach Water Quality
During the summer months of June, July and August, CK Public Health monitors water quality at 8 beaches in Chatham-Kent to make sure that it is safe for swimming.
Beaches We Monitor
CK Public Health monitors water quality at public beaches only. A public beach is a swimming area open to the public that is owned and/or operated by the municipality. In Chatham-Kent, there are 8 beaches:
What We Test For
CK Public Health has beach water tested for the presence of E. coli bacteria. E. coli are a type of bacteria that can make us sick and cause infections. The presence of high levels of E. coli in beach water is a sign that the water may contain other harmful germs too.
Public beaches are open between June and August of each year. CK Public Health permanently posts advisory signs at all public beaches warning you to use caution when swimming.
On this website, you can also find the status of each beach. The beach status is open or closed. It is based on observations made during beach inspections and beach water sample results. It is important to know that, even when a beach is open, there may still be high levels of bacteria that could make you sick. You should always use caution when using the beach.
What the Beach Status Means
Reasons a Beach May be Closed
Sometimes, beaches may become unsafe because of pollution or other hazards that may harm your health. When this happens, CK Public Health may close the beach to prevent you from getting sick or hurt. Reasons a beach may be closed include:
- Very high levels of bacteria
- Chemical, oil, sewage or other waste spill
- Blue-green algae bloom (Click here for more information)
- Fish or other wildlife die-off
- Safety hazards, such as sharp objects
Decide Whether to Swim at the Beach
Heavy rainfall or strong winds increase levels of bacteria and other germs in beach water. This may increase your risk of getting an infection or getting sick. When you think about going to the beach, be aware of recent weather conditions and ask yourself:
- Did it rain heavily yesterday or today?
- Was it very windy and wavy yesterday or today?
If you answer yes to either of those questions, it’s best to choose another day to swim.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Stay safe at the beach:
- Check the beach status before you go
- Avoid going to the beach after heavy rain and/or strong winds – rain and waves can stir up bacteria and other germs that can make beach water unsafe for swimming
- Avoid putting your head underwater – accidentally swallowing beach water can make you sick
- Do not swim if you have open wounds or sores – germs in beach water can cause infections
- Always supervise children and keep children under 5 years old at arm’s length at all times – drownings can happen in less than 10 seconds
- Avoid swimming in rough water and look out for rip currents
- Avoid the beach if you notice any signs of pollution, such as spills, sewage or dead animals – you can report concerns to CK Public Health
- Practice sun safety
- Stay cool – very warm temperatures can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Report a Concern
If you think you have gotten sick because of beach water, see your health care provider.
You can always report concerns about beach water safety to CK Public Health. A public health inspector will follow up with you.