Lake Huron water testing underway
The shores of Lake Huron are one of Ontario's beach hot spots, but chronic pollution continues to make summer swimming an ‘at your own risk’ activity.
In a few weeks it may be one of the best jobs in Huron County, but as summer water testing got underway Tuesday, it was anything but comfortable for Sara Little and Mike Park.
Little says "Today the water is about nine degrees, so it is cold, it’s really cold, hence the wet suits."
This is their first day on the job, but they've got a summer full of tests to do. They'll test at 14 beaches from north of Amberley to south of Grand Bend.
Park explains "Usually we sample about five spots at every beach, six if there’s a river, and we do it every Tuesday and Thursday."
The results from Tuesday’s sampling won't be known for a couple of days but last year's water samples suggest Lake Huron's water quality is improving, a little.
Jean-Guy Albert, with the Huron County Health Unit says "Basically what we’re finding is even though the overall results seem to indicate maybe a little bit of improvement, we’re still seeing days where there was quite a bit of bacteria in some of the beaches."
Last year's improvements can likely be chalked up to dry weather with less rainfall to wash land contaminants into the lake.
But those that study the lake are still buoyed by the slight improvement, suggesting things like erosion controls and septic system inspections are making a difference.
Geoff Peach of the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation says "I think the fact things we’re not getting much worse is probably good, but it does tell you how much further we need to go in conservation efforts along the Lake Huron watershed."
In Huron County beaches are no longer posted as safe or unsafe, instead signs urge swimmers to police themselves.
Albert says "An adult standing waist high should be able to see the bottom, or their feet basically. If they don’t see their feet, that’s probably an indication that there may be some bacteria in the water."
In the short term, swimmers can be smart and enjoy the lake, while this year’s testers gather the long term data to show how the water is changing.