Beach water testing is an inexact science, according to Public Health Grey Bruce, and Program Manager Bob Hart says public education is the best way to ensure beach water safety.
In light of that, the Health Unit is going to reduce lake water testing frequency next year to once a month but expand the number of beaches that are tested.
Hart says testing isn't the best way to tell if the water is safe because by the time test results come back, water conditions have usually changed.
He says 20 years of data gathering in the area has shown you don't need a lab to know if the water is okay to swim in, anyone can tell when it's unsafe.
Just looking at the weather and beach conditions will do it.
Hart says heavy rainfall washes contaminants into the water and people should wait 24 to 48 hours to swim after a heavy rainfall--- something anyone can easily observe.
If the water is too cloudy to see through, it's best to wait for it to calm down.
He says if it's windy and the water is being tossed around in waves, stirring up things that would normally have settled, it's a good idea to avoid swimming.
He adds if you see a lot of geese around, there is probably e-coli and other bacteria in that water because of goose droppings.
Hart says E-coli is a good "indicator that other bacteria are in the water as well calling it an "indicator organism around the potential for infectious disease."
He explains, "If there's E-coli in the water it means there could be things like salmonella in there, there could be Norovirus, there could be other types of bacteria that cause eye infections and ear infections and skin rashes and that kind of thing."
If you do swim in water that could be contaminated, Hart says try not to get it in your mouth, take a shower after, and clean your hands before eating. He notes, that's easier said than done when it comes to small children who often put their hands in their mouths.
Meanwhile Public Health will add a number of beaches to its testing schedule. They are: Sarawak, Meaford Memorial Park, Hope Bay, Lion's Head, and Point Clark.
Already being tested are: Blue Mountains' North Winds and Little River, Sauble Beach, Singing Sands is tested by Parks Canada, Southampton Beach, Gobles Grove and Port Elgin Main Beach and Kincardine Main Beach.