Beach Water Testing
One of the jobs for Ontario Health Units is to prevent or reduce illness and injury related to recreational water use. This includes testing the water at public beaches during the swimming season.
The water is tested for E. coli bacteria. The presence of E. coli indicates recent sewage contamination. This can be caused by bathers, birds, animals, surface water runoff, sewage spills, private sewage disposal systems and pleasure boats.
Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria can cause skin rashes, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, and intestinal or stomach sickness if the water is swallowed.
If the test results show that there is too much E. coli in the water, a sign is put up. The sign states that the Medical Officer of Health advises people not to swim in the water because of high levels of bacteria. The sign is removed when further tests show that the water is safe for swimming again.
Beaches owned and operated by municipalities are tested. Other beaches with public access may also be tested if the Medical Officer of Health believes that swimming may result in illness.
The beaches that are tested are listed below.
|Municipality||Body of Water||Name of Beach||Status|
|Laurentian Hills||Ottawa River||Burkes Road Beach|
|Deep River||Ottawa River||Lamure Beach|
|Deep River||Ottawa River||Pine Point|
|Arnprior||Ottawa River||McLean Avenue Beach|
|Arnprior||Ottawa River||Robert Simpson Beach|
|McNab/Braeside||Ottawa River||Braeside Beach|
|Greater Madawaska||Calabogie Lake||Barnet Park|
|Pembroke||Ottawa River||Riverside Park|
|Bonnechere Valley||Bonnechere River||Rotary Park|
|McNab/Braeside||Madawaska River||McNab Park|
|McNab/Braeside||White Lake||White Lake Beach|
|Petawawa||Petawawa River||Centennial Park/Catwalk|
|Petawawa||Ottawa River||Petawawa Point|
|Whitewater Region||Muskrat Lake||Cobden Beach|
|North Algona Wilberforce||Lake Dore||Lake Dore Park Beach|
|North Algona Wilberforce||Lake Dore||Point Church Beach|
|Madawaska Valley||Lake Kamaniskeg||Barry’s Bay Beach|
|Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan||Gorman Lake||Gorman Lake Beach|
|Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan||Raglan Lake||Raglan Lake Beach|
|Madawaska Valley||Madawaska River||Mayflower/Sunset Beach|
|Madawaska Valley||Wadsworth Lake||Wadsworth Beach|
|South Algonquin||Galeairy Lake||Whitney Beach|
|Greater Madawaska||Genrich Lake||Genrich Beach|
|Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan||Kargus Lake||Kargus Beach|
|South Algonquin||Bark Lake||Murray Park Beach|
|Whitewater Region||Stevenson Lake||Little Lakes Beach|
|Bonnechere Valley||Lake Clear||Lake Clear Beach|
|South Algonquin||Madawaska River||JR Booth Beach|
Caring for Your Well
Preventing Contamination of Your Well
If you get your drinking water from a private well, have your water tested for bacteria at least three times per year. Testing times should be spread out over the year, for example during or immediately after a spring melt, in mid-summer and in the fall.
Your well can be contaminated by:
- Openings in the well seal
- Improperly installed well casing
- Well casing not deep enough
- Well casing not sealed
- A source of contamination not related to well construction.
- Improper grading around the well casing.
Take care of your well by ensuring that:
- Sanitary seal or well cap is securely in place and water-tight
- Well cap is at least 40 cm above the ground
- Joints, cracks and connections in the well casing are sealed
- Surface drainage near the well is directed away from the well casing
- Surface water does not pond near the well
- Changes in the quantity and quality of water are investigated immediately
Unused wells should be properly abandoned to prevent pollution of ground water and address any safety hazards. The hiring of a well contractor qualified to seal wells is strongly recommended.
Disinfecting Your Well
If your water test shows that bacteria were in the sample, your well may need to be disinfected (shocked). If you are unsure what the test result means, ask a Public Health Inspector: 613-735-8654 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 555.
You can disinfect your well by adding the following amounts of regular chlorinated household bleach (5.25 % chlorine concentration). Do no use lemon-scented or other types of bleach.
- Dug wells one meter (three feet) in width: Add one litre (one quart) of household bleach for every 1.5 metres (five feet) of water depth.
- Drilled wells 15 cm (six inches) in width: Add five ounces (142 ml) of household bleach for every 7.5 metres (25 feet) of water depth.
- Well points 5cm (two inches) in diameter: Add 85 ml (three ounces) of household bleach for every 3 metres(10 feet) of depth.
- If you don’t know how deep the water is in the well, use the well depth to estimate how much bleach to add.
For detailed instructions on how to disinfect your well, see the Disinfection Instruction Sheet.
After disinfecting your well, boil the water for at least one minute before using until you receive good test results. Sometimes you may have to disinfect your well a couple of times in order to kill all the bacteria in the well water.
Emergency Treatment of Contaminated Drinking Water
If you are disinfecting your well it is because the water has been found to be unsafe. Until the disinfection is finished, you can make the water safe by:
- Boiling it for one minute, OR adding eight drops (1.25 ml or ¼ teaspoon) of chlorinated household bleach (not lemon-scented or fabric safe) per 4.5 litres (one gallon) of water. Mix it well and allow to stand for 15 minutes. (This treatment will not kill parasites).
- Chill boiled or treated water until used.
Please contact a Public Health Inspector: 613-735-8654 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 555 if you are not sure what type of chlorine solution to use.
Green Communities Canada – Well Aware Program
Caring for your Water Well After a Flood
Water wells can become polluted by flooding. Sometimes bad water has a nasty taste, odour, or cloudiness. Other times it tastes, smells and looks the same as clean water.
During a flood, dirty water may get directly into the water table through the well itself, through an old well or some other opening in the ground nearby. In this way it bypasses the natural purifying action of the earth.
Water wells may not be affected by floods. However, homeowners are urged to test all wells in the flooded area for bacteria.
Until tests show the water to be drinkable, all water for drinking should be boiled. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs. For more information see Boil water advisory frequently asked questions.
If you think or are told that your well water is unsafe because of chemicals, then boiling will make the problem worse. Instead, use another source of water such as store bought bottled water.
Call the Health Unit at 613-735-8654 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 555 for further information about how to disinfect a well.
Private Drinking Water Testing
Renfrew County and District Health Unit provides water testing services for residents who have private drinking water systems.
If you get your drinking water from a well, you should have it tested for bacteria at least three times per year. Testing times should be spread out over the year, for example during or just after a spring melt, in mid-summer and in the fall. In addition to regular testing, well water should be tested:
- after any work to pumps or plumbing
- if the well has not been used for several weeks
- if there has been flooding in the area, or
- if there has been a change in water colour or odour
Water testing is free. Sample bottles can be picked up at Health Unit offices. Sample bottles can also be picked up at all municipal offices in Renfrew County and District.
Instructions for taking the sample come with the water sample bottles. Follow the instructions carefully and write all of the information requested on the sample form.
Take the sample as close as possible to the time you will be dropping it off for testing. If you are not dropping off your sample right away, keep it in the fridge or a cooler.
Dropping off your water sample
There are five locations where you can drop off your water sample. See the table below for details and times.
|Office Location and Hours||Drop-off Times|
|ARNPRIOR – McNab/Braeside Municipal Office
2508 Russett Drive, RR #2, Arnprior
Monday, Wednesday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
|Monday – Thursday during regular office hours Friday before 10:45 a.m.
Courier picks up samples Tuesday – Friday at 10:45 a.m.
|BARRY’S BAY- Lorraine’s Pharmasave
19566 Opeongo Line, Barry’s Bay
Call the Health Unit at 1-800-267-1097
Monday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
|Monday – Wednesday during regular business hours Thursday – before 1:00 p.m.
Water samples are not accepted Thursday after 1:00 p.m., on Friday or on the weekend.
Courier picks up samples Monday – Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Samples taken in the morning must be dropped off the same day before 1:00 p.m.
|DEEP RIVER AREA – Laurentian Hills Municipal Office
34465 Highway 17, Point Alexander
Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
|January, February, March, September, October, November and December: Tuesday and Wednesday during regular office hours.
April, May, June, July and August: Monday to Thursday during regular office hours
|PEMBROKE – Health Unit Office
7 International Drive, Pembroke
Monday to Friday (September to end of June): 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
|Monday – Thursday during regular office hours Friday before 8:45 a.m.
Courier picks up samples Tuesday – Friday at 8:45 a.m.
|RENFREW – Health Unit Office
450 O’Brien Road, Suite 106, Renfrew
Monday to Friday (September to end of June): 8:30 a.m. – noon and 1:00 – 4:30 p.m.
July and August: 8:00 – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
|Monday – Thursday during regular office hours
Friday before 10:00 a.m.Courier picks up samples Tuesday – Friday at 10:00 a.m.
Long weekends and statutory holidays – please check with the Health Unit for possible changes to the above schedule.
Interpreting your water test results
Public Health Inspectors are here to help you understand what your water results mean and how to fix any problems with your drinking water. Call the Health Unit at 613-735-8654 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 555.
Do not rely on the test results of only one water sample. We recommend you take three samples taken one to three weeks apart to make sure your drinking water is safe to drink.
If you want to check for chemicals in your well water, you need to contact a lab or a water treatment company. Call the Health Unit for more information.
Public Health Ontario – Water Testing
When Blue-Green Algae may be in Your Drinking Water
Blue-green algae are microscopic plants that live in water. Under certain conditions they can rapidly increase in numbers to form a large mass called a bloom.
Blue-green algae blooms have occurred on water bodies in Renfrew County and District. The Health Unit advises people to be on the lookout for algae blooms. If you suspect a blue-green algae bloom, assume toxins are present and call the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.
The following are precautions to take during a blue-green algae bloom:
- Avoid using the water for drinking, bathing, or showering and do not allow children, pets or livestock to drink or swim in the water.
- Do not boil the water because this may release more toxins into the water.
- Avoid cooking with the water because food may absorb toxins from the water during cooking.
- Be careful when eating fish caught in water where blue‐green algae blooms occur. Do not eat the liver, kidneys, and other organs of fish caught in this water.
- Do not treat the water with a disinfectant like bleach. This may break open algae cells and release toxins into the water.
- Do not rely on water jug filtration systems as they do not protect against the toxins.
- On lakes and rivers where blue‐green algae blooms are confirmed, people who use the surface water for their private drinking water supply should consider an alternate, protected source of water.
For more information see the Government of Ontario’s Blue-Green Algae page.