Heading to the beach? Test the waters first

By Lindsay Advocate

By Bernie Mayer, manager of health protection, HKPR District Health Unit

Water is an essential part of life. We drink it, bathe in it, and during the hot summer days we swim, play and enjoy recreational activities in it.

We are blessed with an abundance of water in the many lakes and rivers in this region, as well as many beautiful public beaches that dot our shores. Beaches are a great place for locals and visitors alike to spend the day with their families, play in the sand, enjoy a picnic, and ultimately beat the heat with a swim.

For an area with so many beaches, it’s surprising to learn how few people check the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR District Health Unit) beach water testing results before taking a dip in the water. A Health Unit survey of local beach enthusiasts done last summer found 69 per cent of respondents did not check the test water results before going into the water.

The HKPR District Health Unit regularly tests the water at dozens of public beaches in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes throughout the summer to ensure they are safe for swimming. The results are shared with the public using a three-colour system to indicate the amount of bacteria in the water, so residents can make an informed decision before stepping out in their swimsuits.

Beach water results that are ‘in the red’ mean high levels of E. coli and other bacteria are in the water, making it unsafe for swimming. Beaches listed as ‘yellow’ have high counts of bacteria and swimming is not recommended.

With 7 out of 10 beachgoers not checking beach water test results, many people may be swimming in unsafe water and needlessly exposing themselves to bacteria that may cause skin rash, stomach cramps, diarrhea, or infection of the eye, ear, nose or throat.

Before heading to the beach, fellow beachgoers should visit the HKPR District Health Unit’s website to check on the latest water test results. Save yourself travel time, gas money and disappointment by going to a beach you know is safe to swim at by making the ‘HKPR Beach Check’ part of your summer routine.

This beach checklist starts with reviewing the latest test results and packing the essentials: sunscreen, sunglasses, a swimsuit, and towel. If we forget to check test results online, a fallback is to check for signs at the beach that indicate the current swimming status.

Beat the heat this summer by making waves at local beaches, starting every adventure off with an #HKPRBeachCheck!

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