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Great Lakes Article:

E.Coli Hits Thunder Bay Waters

By Ward Holland - The Chronicle-Journal

June 28, 2002

Sun bathers, swimmers and beach bums taking advantage of the warm weather should know this: Chippewa Beach water could be harmful to your health.

In what has become a familiar refrain every summer, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit announced yesterday that laboratory results showed “excessive levels” of E. coli bacteria in the lake water at Chippewa.

“Bacteria tend to build up with warm temperatures and heavy rainfall,” Abby Mackie, a health inspector with the unit, said in a statement.

“The combination of warm temperatures and bird and animal droppings washed into the lake by rainfall make beach areas an ideal site for bacteria to grow.”

The health unit announced that signs were posted at Chippewa Beach on Wednesday, warning people about the health hazards.

Health unit inspectors began sampling water from the beaches at Boulevard Lake and Chippewa Park last week.

Test results determined that Boulevard is safe for swimming.

Dwight Gessie, City of Thunder Bay manager of community services, said the warning from the health unit was not unexpected.

“We do have some significant work to do in the area,” Gessie said.

He said that about one-third of the breakwall, about 100 metres, was removed in March to help improve circulation of the water.

The city has no plans to remove the entire breakwall, because it still prevents debris from the lake from washing up on to shore, he said.

However, Gessie said, the city will consider cutting a hole in the breakwall to improve circulation even more.

He said several things are planned by Friends of Chippewa Park to improve the water: regrading the beach and adding a retaining wall; adding aeration fountains; dredging the bay area; and opening up another portion of breakwall.

The improvements to the beach are contingent on the city and Friends of Chippewa Park getting grants from the provincial and federal governments.

Gessie said “nothing significant” can be done in the short term to improve the quality of the contaminated water at Chippewa.

“There is no quick fix,” he said.

“The reality is the (contaminated) area that has been identified is very, very shallow,” he said. “We know we have quite a bit of work to do and we have funding applications to deal with those matters.”

Iain Angus, secretary of Friends of Chippewa, said fecal matter from birds, especially Canada geese, is believed to be the source of contamination.

However, Gessie downplayed that, noting birds weren’t a significant problem at the park this year.

Angus said the city’s sewage treatment plant north of Chippewa was never considered a contamination source.

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