Q: Where does Ottawa Public Health conduct water quality tests and how frequently?
DB. We monitor recreational water quality 7 days a week at Ottawa’s five supervised beaches- Mooney’s Bay, Britannia Beach, Westboro Beach, Petrie Island East Bay and Petrie Island River Beaches. In addition, water samples are taken biweekly at areas along the Rideau River (Black Rapids, Eccolands Park, Manotick East, Kars, Taylor and Baxter Conservation Authority) and Ottawa River (Shirley’s Bay, Pinhey’s Point, Baskin’s Beach, Constance Bay, Auger’s Beach, Buckham’s Bay, Morris Island)
(BEACH CONDITIONS ARE BASED ON PREVIOUS DAY’S TEST SAMPLES! Please note that although Ottawa Public Health collects beach water samples every day, the results take 18 to 24 hours to process in the laboratory so swim and no-swim advisories are based on conditions from the previous day. As a precaution, Ottawa Riverkeeper recommends NO SWIMMING following a heavy rainfall!)
Q: Why have these areas been chosen for water quality testing?
DB: Historical empirical data has demonstrated this to be sufficient to ensure adequate water quality. Locations have been strategically selected for their locations relative to the river flow. These specific points are monitored on an annual basis to ensure that they remain representative samples of Ottawa’s recreational water quality.
Q: What are you testing for? And what does that tell us?
DB: Recreational water samples are tested for the presence of E.coli bacteria. When elevated levels of E.coli are detected in the water, it is likely that other organisms – which can also pose a risk to your health – are likely present.
Q: What does it mean when a beach is closed? What have you found in the water to lead to this?
DB: No-swim advisories are issued when the water contains E.coli bacteria that may increase a swimmer’s risk of developing health problems including, skin, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, and in rare occasions, gastrointestinal illnesses when contaminated water is swallowed. In Ottawa, no-swim advisories are issued when E. coli reaches or exceeds 200 E.coli bacteria cells for one day or 100 E.coli bacteria cells for two or more consecutive days. Such E. coli concentrations represent an increased risk of human infection. A 24-hour no-swim advisory may be in place at the beaches after significant rainfall. Learn about our FREE Swim Guide App and Ottawa Public Health’s important role monitoring water quality at your local beach
For more information
In addition to Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Swim Guide App, daily updates on the water quality at Ottawa beaches are available by calling Ottawa Public Health (613) 580-6744 , ext. 13219, by calling 3-1-1, or by visiting OPH’s website.
Ottawa Public Health also posts daily results as soon as they are received on Twitter (ottawahealth and in French OttawaSante).
Site signage and flags at each of the 5 beaches will also indicate when a ‘no swim’ advisory is in effect.
If you suspect the water made you sick, please consult your physician and alert Ottawa Public Health by calling 613-580-6744 . In the case of an emergency dial 911.