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June 8, 2006
Toronto beaches officially open for 2006
Toronto’s 10 lifeguarded beaches are open for business today as the City of Toronto begins daily water quality sampling. In conjunction with today’s beach launch, Environmental Defence, for the second year, is presenting the City with the international Blue Flag at four beaches (Cherry Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Ward’s Island Beach and Woodbine Beach).

“The City of Toronto is committed to improving beach water quality and is devoting resources for further improvements,” said Councillor Shelley Carroll, Chair of the City’s Works Committee. “A new beach management program, recently approved by City Council, includes Toronto Water; Parks, Forestry and Recreation; and Toronto Public Health working together on water quality and beach parkland improvements at the City’s 10 designated beaches.”

The program includes a range of new initiatives with a focus on Centre Island, Bluffer’s and Sunnyside beaches that have consistently had poor water quality. Testing by Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute indicates that droppings from gulls and geese contribute to these beaches being posted unsafe for swimming.

To help improve beach water quality, the City has developed a program that includes a waterfowl and gull deterrent system; a public education campaign to encourage people to dispose of food scraps and to not feed the birds; algae harvesting; in-water and land debris clean-up; and enhanced beach grooming. These new initiatives will be implemented during the 2006 beach season.

“Environmental Defence is delighted to once again present the Blue Flags to the City of Toronto,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “Awarding Blue Flags to four of the City’s beaches tells residents and visitors the City is working to improve beach water quality, and we look forward to awarding more Blue Flags as the City continues to implement new initiatives.”

From June until the end of August, Toronto Water collects water samples from the 10 supervised beaches across the city. Water samples are taken daily and tested for E. Coli levels and must not exceed the provincial guidelines of 100 E. Coli per 100 ml of water. When water tests show high amounts of E. Coli bacteria, Toronto Public Health warns against swimming, and signs are posted at affected beaches. Testing the samples usually takes 24 hours.

Environmental Defence co-ordinates the Blue Flag program in Canada and is responsible for monitoring the 27 criteria, including water quality, environmental management and education, and safety and service.

For more information call the City’s Beach Water Quality Hotline at 416-392-7161, or visit

Backgrounder below.

Media contact:

Diane Chester
Senior Communications Co-ordinator
(cell) 416-420-5077


Improving Toronto beach water quality

Factors affecting beach water quality include: elevated E. Coli bacteria levels; algae growth as a result of elevated nutrient levels; feces from gulls and waterfowl (geese and ducks) in the water and on the edge of the shoreline; and litter and debris. Wet weather can also play a role in water quality at Toronto beaches, particularly those beaches affected by combined sewer overflows and storm sewer and river discharges.

Current solutions to improve beach water quality
  • The Wet Weather Flow Master Plan, approved by Council in 2003, is one of the largest planning processes undertaken to address the impacts associated with stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows within a large urban centre. The goal of the plan is to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the adverse effects of wet weather flow – runoff that is generated when it rains or snows. Some of these initiatives include public education and downspout disconnection.
  • Two underground storage tanks intercept and treat the direct discharges from storm sewers and combined sewer overflows at the Eastern Beaches. The Western Beaches Storage Tunnel intercepts direct discharge from eight combined sewer and two storm sewer outfalls. The Western Beaches are also affected by the continued pollution from the Humber River.

    2006 beach management program
    Toronto Water, in collaboration with Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute, have test results indicating E. Coli sources at a number of Toronto beaches are a result of fecal droppings from gulls and geese. This has contributed to these beaches often being posted unsafe for swimming. In April 2006, City Council approved a number of new initiatives to help improve beach water quality that will be implemented during the 2006 beach season:

  • Initiatives for the City’s 10 designated beaches
    During the 2006 beach season, improvements to park maintenance will include enhanced waste collection, algae harvesting, recycling and beachgrooming programs. A public education campaign – including signage, brochures and print advertising – will advise beach visitors to dispose of food scraps and to not feed the birds.
  • Centre Island Beach – gull deterrent program
    A successful program used in other municipalities includes extending mono-filament fishing lines between seven-metre high aluminum flag poles around the swimming and beach area. The fishing lines deter the gulls from attempting to land in the beach area.
  • Bluffer’s Beach and Sunnyside – waterfowl and gull deterrent program
    Bird feces are a significant source of pollution at both beaches. Large numbers of gulls and geese gather at these beach areas and are regularly fed scraps of food by visitors. A multi-faceted waterfowl and gull deterrent program will consist of the following: the use of birds of prey, dogs and noise-makers to discourage waterfowl and gulls from colonizing on the beach, the Canadian Wildlife Service sponsored waterfowl transfer and egg oiling program will be expanded to all beach areas with a priority at Bluffers Beach.

    Beach Management Symposium
  • Hosted by the City of Toronto, a workshop for municipal representatives across the Great Lakes basin is being held on June 19 to discuss the latest advances in beach management issues. Topics include protocols for beach sampling, sampling methodology, sediment accumulation and the role wildlife has in contributing to beach postings. Particularly useful will be the discussion of successes in improved beach water quality conditions among municipalities across the basin.

    Blue Flag Program
  • The City of Toronto is the first municipality in Canada to be recognized by the Blue Flag program for setting high standards in water quality and cleanliness. This is the second year that four of Toronto’s beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag – Cherry Beach, Hanlan’s Point, Ward’s Island and Woodbine beaches.
  • The Blue Flag program is an internationally recognized award given to beaches that achieve high standards in the following areas: water quality, environmental management, environmental education, and safety and service. The Blue Flag is awarded on an annual basis and is only valid as long as the international standards continue to be met.
  • The flag is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, an international non-government organization (NGO) based in Denmark. Environmental Defence, a Toronto based NGO, co-ordinates the Blue Flag Canada program and monitors the four beaches designated to ensure that the Blue Flag standards are maintained.

    Beach water quality testing
  • Toronto Water and Toronto Public Health work collaboratively to sample Toronto beach water. Samples are taken daily from early June to Labour Day. Water quality must not exceed the provincial guidelines of 100 E.Coli per 100 ml of water, otherwise the beach is posted as unsafe for swimming. A beach must meet these provincial guidelines 80 per cent of the time throughout the season to receive the Blue Flag designation.

    Lifeguards – Toronto Police Marine Unit
  • Toronto’s 10 beaches are staffed by lifeguards from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week. Look for the City’s lifeguards at the upcoming Provincial Waterfront Lifesaving Championships, August 14 and 15 at Wasaga Beach.

    Public Education
  • Public education campaigns are a large part of improving lake water quality. Other City campaigns include: downspout disconnection, pesticide reduction, stooping and scooping pet waste, and new tree planting.



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