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Dissertation – Microbiological Sampling and Analysis of Recreational Waters in Canada

Petite fille qui joue dans l'eau

Fondation Rivières submitted a brief to Health Canada as part of the public consultation regarding the quality of water used for recreational purposes in Canada.


A need for rapid results on water quality

Over the last five years we have been involved in various studies on the subject involving the use of new rapid analysis technologies.

More and more bathing places are likely to emerge over the coming years, particularly in the context of climate change when the population will demand such places. The subject thus takes on increased importance and the approach must be inspired by international practices and developments.

In this sense, quickly obtaining results and carrying out measurements in real time, or very quickly, appears to us to be very important, and even crucial, in order to improve the security of use.

The use of traditional analysis methods which require delays of more than 12 hours, up to more than 72 hours including transport, incubation, analysis and transmission of results times do not allow ensure the safety of uses, especially when it comes to a hydrodynamic environment. This situation was the subject of an intervention by Fondation Rivières by press release dated June 28, 2019 from the Quebec Ministry of the Environment regarding its Environnement-Beach program.

So that the application of regulations in this area is the responsibility of the provinces and territories concerned, Health Canada must present in its document solid guidelines to guide the responsible authorities. This press release from Fondation Rivières concerning the Environment-Beach program recalls fundamental elements to ensure water safety. These recommendations are still the subject of demands and a federal government orientation appears important.

Enzymatic analysis devices tested by Fondation Rivières

Many bathing sites are vulnerable to upstream sources of pollution, particularly where rivers are concerned. Whether it is sewage spillage in rainy weather or dry weather due to sewer system malfunctions, direct discharges or by reverse connections to the rainwater network, due to breakage or illicit discharges, the threats are numerous and vary from one site to another. It is therefore important to carry out a vulnerability diagnosis of these places. If the site is vulnerable to pollution, it is necessary to evaluate the benefits of real-time analyzes or rapid analyzes using new enzyme activity measurement technologies now available, including ColiMinder, Fluidion or RedOne .

We have been able to experiment and obtain independent scientific opinions regarding the ColiMinder device, both in Quebec via Polytechnique Montréal and Fondation Rivières, as well as in France via Eau de Paris. Our president personally experienced the device as part of a monitoring carried out on the waters of the L’Assomption River in 2020. This involved monitoring over a period of several weeks to identify the opening conditions of a municipal beach and to note the amplitude of variations in water quality during the period. 

A real-time monitoring and swimming point closure protocol was developed during this study. This protocol is still used by the City of Assomption. A Similar monitoring was carried out on the Châteauguay River with screening analyzes on the river to confirm the good quality of the water in the upstream section of the river.

The draft directive should therefore be based on more contemporary information and recent technologies should also be the subject of “Advantages-Disadvantages” tables, just like the other approaches already indicated.

Photo: Mieke Campbell/Unsplash


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