Beach water threats: Could the water make you sick?

Warm weather and sunshine have many people looking for ways to beat the heat. But if you're planning on heading to the beach you may have more to worry about than the water temperature. How about threats you can't see? Caley Bedore has more on beach water testing and what inspectors are looking for.

Warm weather and sunshine have many people looking for ways to beat the heat. But if you’re planning on heading to the beach, you may have more to worry about than water temperature.

E. coli is the beach water threat you can’t see and it could make you sick.

“There are many strains of E. coli but there is one in particular that can be nasty and that is what we are looking for,” said Brittany Cadence, Peterborough Public Health communications manager.

“People who become sick with it usually develop symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.”

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She said it is the same strain that can be found on vegetables or in beef and it is especially concerning for vulnerable populations like kids and seniors.

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Rogers Cove and Beavermead Beach in Peterborough, Ont., are tested each business day. Inspectors also test 20 beaches in Peterborough County.

“The level of E. coli that can be in the water now is 200 CFU, which is colony-forming units, for 100 millilitres of water and if it goes beyond that, then it is considered unsafe for recreational use – such as swimming,” said Monica Kopec, an inspector with the Safe Water Program.

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She said a number of factors can increase the risk for the bacteria.

“It can depend on wave currents, the number of swimmers in the water, the amount of waterfowl like geese and ducks and the amount of heavy rainfall,” Kopec said.

Once the samples are collected, they go to the Regional Public Health Laboratory where they’re tested, according to provincial standards.

For a list of beach postings, you can visit