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Saturday, November 26, 2022
Popular NOTL beach passes 90% of E. coli tests

The water at Queen's Royal Beach passed E. coli tests 90 per cent of the time this summer, and only failed three times, regional statistics show.

Data from the Region of Niagara, which oversees beach water testing, shows Queen's Royal only exceeded the limit three times – on June 24, July 17 and July 22.

The change is a remarkable improvement from a year ago when serious concerns were raised about raw sewage seeping into Lake Ontario.

Water was tested three times each week this summer from June until Aug. 31 in conjunction with a major sewer repair project in Old Town.

The water passed 30 of the 33 times it was tested.

Every day during the summer, visitors flock to Queen's Royal beach, located in Old Town near the iconic Niagara-on-the-Lake gazebo. Many families and children swim, wade or play in the water.

In 2019, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake released a 210-page consultant's report showing that raw sewage had been leaking into Lake Ontario from the town's sewer system for several years.

The consultant's two-year study of the situation could not determine how long the problem had been going on.

The report forced the town to launch a nearly $500,000 repair project. Grants from other levels of government helped cover some of the municipality's costs.

This summer, in partnership with the region and the provincial ministry of the environment, the town sampled the water regularly and the region analyzed those samples.

“We have been successful in reducing the limits to bring them within provincial guidelines,” Brett Ruck, the town's environmental services supervisor, said in response to questions from The Lake Report.

In the long term, “with the amount of work we’ve done, we will not have to do continued testing. We are seeing, and expect to continue to see, good results from the sewer now and in the future,” he added.

That said, the town has already asked the region to continue to test the water at Queen's Royal beach next summer.

Ruck said he is unaware of any plans to ask the region to test water at Ryerson Park, which has a small beach that is popular with area residents and visitors.

“There could be a potential request to the region, however that request would be made by council,” Ruck said.

Heavy rains, high winds and other environmental factors can influence E. coli levels, Niagara public health says. The town now posts “educational signs” along the NOTL lakefront warning that the water is not tested and advising about factors that can affect water quality.

The Region of Niagara said it is still planning to post Queen's Royal beach's 2020 test results on its “open data” website.

It will likely include test results from beaches across the region, said Jeremy Kelly, a public health inspector with the region.

“We are working on a project to have results automatically posted to open data throughout the season,” he told The Lake Report.

“This would allow easier public access to the results and more real-time reporting. We hope to have that operational for the 2021 season.”