Rain closes many Toronto beaches
One beach closed 70% of summer
Nearly half of Toronto's beaches were closed yesterday
due to high levels of E. coli, but health officials say
that's not unusual after a few days of rain.
With a dry spell coming, health officials expect at least
a couple of the six beaches deemed unsafe for swimming
to reopen within a day or two.
But if you're hoping to take a plunge at Sir Casimir
Gzowski Park, nearest the mouth of the Humber River, don't
hold your breath.
The beach is often at the receiving end of the Humber's
River's most toxic bounty, with storm water flowing from
city streets into the river, and then into that part of
Lake Ontario near Windermere and Ellis Aves.
"It's a tremendous source of bacteria for us and
the beaches as well," said Michael D'Andrea, manager
of the city's water and waste-water management services
Although experts say bacteria levels over the last couple
of years have come down, Sir Casimir remains closed about
70 per cent of the summer, D'Andrea said. That's down
from a couple of years ago, when it was closed about 90
per cent of the time.
Part of the reason for easing levels of bacteria near
the Humber is last year's opening of the Western Beaches
Tunnel, a massive pipe that redirects sewage and storm
water in that part of the city.
Although beaches furthest from the Humber are typically
the cleanest, all Toronto beaches have been closed at
one time or another.
"One of the reasons that beaches are posted unsafe
for swimming is because of high levels of E. coli bacteria
and the principal source of that bacteria is discharges
from our sewer system," D'Andrea said.
Older parts of the city, like the downtown core, have
double-duty pipes carrying raw sewage and storm water
at once. When it rains heavily, that murky mixture frequently
overflows into the lake.
Newer areas have separated systems, with raw sewage going
directly to treatment plants, and storm water taking the
higher road to the lake.
Still, it may not be enough.
"We find, surprisingly, when you look at the chemical
of that storm water, it's also quite polluted and also
high in E. coli levels," D'Andrea said.