Water Quality

Beach Water Quality

Please visit the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health webpage for the Beach Posting Weekly Report.

The Elgin-St. Thomas Health Unit and Central Elgin staff test the waters of Lake Erie off of Erie Rest Beach, Little Beach and Main Beach for water quality throughout the swimming season. If e. coli bacteria levels exceed provincial standards, the Medical Officer of Health will issue an advisory on swimming at that beach.

Even if an advisory has been issued, the beach remains open for beach activities like sunbathing, walking and volleyball.

Why are Beaches Posted?
Beaches are posted with warning signs because the water may contain high levels of bacteria. You should not swim if the water is cloudy due to wave action or following a heavy rainfall. In waist deep water, you should be able to see your feet.

What Causes High Bacteria Levels?
There is no one cause of high bacteria levels at beaches in Central Elgin or elsewhere in Ontario. There are a number of causes:

  • faulty or overworked septic systems,
  • agricultural runoff,
  • sewage treatment plant by-passes,and
  • fecal matter from pets, wildlife and birds, like seagulls.

High levels of bacteria may occur after heavy rainfall because of surface water runoff. High wave action can stir up bacteria settled on the lake bottom.

To learn more about beach postings:

  • click here to view the Ontario Ministry of Environment pamphlet, "Why Beaches are Posted".
  • click here to view Blue Flag Canada's tips on Protecting Beaches.
  • click here to view the sources of bacteria affecting Port Stanley beaches as identified by the Kettle Creek-Lake Erie Water Quality Task Force. (The Elgin-St. Thomas Health Unit, Kettle Creek Conservation Authority and area municipalities established the Task Force in 1995 to study water quality in Kettle Creek and in Lake Erie at Port Stanley to identify the sources of bacteria affecting beaches in Port Stanley.)

summer at central elgin

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