Swimmers blue over water quality

Sunnyside Beach fails to win top designation, but is still safe

Swimmers at Sunnyside Beach have been left high and dry so to speak as their sandy strip once again failed to fulfill the criteria for Blue Flag designation.

The Blue Flag is an internationally recognized program that ensures beaches meet standards of water quality and safety. This year, eight of Toronto’s 11 beaches were awarded the Blue Flag.

Why Sunnyside Beach did not measure up to Blue Flag standards is largely due to where it is located, said Toronto Water’s general manager, Lou Di Gironimo.

“The main reason is because it’s located right beside the Humber River,” he said. “It drains a very large watershed … and all the pollutants that come from both agricultural and urban areas end up in the river and they discharge at the mouth of the river right near the beach.”

That doesn’t mean Sunnyside will never be known as a clean beach. Di Gironimo said there are steps that can be taken to diminish the Humber’s impact on water quality.

“There are things that can be done in the long-term to deal with that problem,” he explained. ”You have to look at building some sort of deflection system to push that stream away from the beach.

“It would take many years and tens of millions of dollars to create.”

He points out though, that just because Sunnyside is not recognized as a Blue Flag beach doesn’t mean the water isn’t safe.

“We can have good water quality when we have a period of calm, no rain and bright sunny days,” said Di Gironimo. “When we see a problem is when we get heavy rain storms and we get the silt that comes from the river.”

The city’s parks department checks the water quality daily at all of Toronto’s beaches. Results of E. coli tests are posted on the city’s website. As of press time, Sunnyside Beach had met the provincial safety standards for swimming for all but five posted daily tests this season.

Despite the green light from officials, few people have actually taken the plunge, according to Francis Zuidinga, who regularly runs by the beach.

“People are afraid of radiation or contamination,” he said. “There’s not a lot of swimmers here.”

Zuidinga said he found the beach area to be clean for the most part except for the goose droppings, which often contain bacteria, scattered in the area. The city has been using dog patrols to keep waterfowl off the beaches.

“(The dogs) just kind of push (the geese) away, have them go to the areas where there’s no swimming,” said Di Gironimo.

To check daily E. coli levels at any of Toronto’s beaches visit www.toronto.ca/beach/index.htm.

About this article:

By: Tristan Carter
Posted: Jun 30 2011 2:41 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto