is it safe to swim in lake ontario

Toronto is divided on whether it's safe to swim in Lake Ontario

Is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario? The Great Lake has never exactly been known as one of the province's cleanest bodies of water, but with Toronto's recent swimming warnings due to high E.coli levels at its beaches, residents seem more skeptical than ever about going for a dip.

Along with the threat of the harmful bacteria, people are also wary of floating garbage — worse these days with all of the discarded face masks and gloves — creepy fish, human excrement and other generally unpleasant stuff that the water is either rumoured or confirmed to host.

Though a day at Woodbine, Cherry, or Hanlan's Point Beaches may be, to some, the ideal activity for a summer day in the city (save for the odd chainsaw incident or COVID-19 dance party), there are still those Torontonians who you could not pay to get into the water.

Whether it was from a smelly personal experience or two, from overhearing a particularly gross swimming story from a friend, or from being raised with the idea that our lake is too nasty to touch, the feeling is quite a pervasive one, E.coli or not; especially during a health crisis, when the population is particularly health-conscious.

The city has a standard of a maximum of 100 Escherichia coli cells per 100 ml for water to be deemed safe to swim in, which is lower than the national guideline for recreational water quality. It also tests the water at its 11 beaches daily in the summer and posts the results online.

Currently, the only one deemed unsafe to swim in is Sunnyside, which has had an E.coli warning every day since July 8.

Whether you're of the camp that believes if health authorities deem waters to be safe then you're fine to throw caution to the wind, or of the camp that thinks splashing around in the smallest Great Lake may leave you looking a little like Blinky the fish from the Simpson's, enjoying the sun and sand from the safety of the shore is always a safe bet — well, most of the time.

Lead photo by

Ron Quitoriano


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