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3-step beach opening guide

Beach  opening guide

Photo credit : Karl Fredrickson – Unsplash

Whatever the size of the project, the Fondation Rivières helps organizations and municipalities in the process of opening a beach site in an urban environment. Discover the three main steps involved in opening a beach, a pond or any other swimming site.

Step 1: Identify a potential beach site

3 criteria to meet

Step 2: Assess Site Vulnerability

It is possible to draw a preliminary portrait if you have access to existing data, otherwise the Fondation Rivières can assist you.

2 aspects to consider

Bacteriological quality

Bacteriological contamination in Quebec's rivers is mainly caused by overflowing sewer systems, non-compliant septic tanks or animal waste (e.g. birds, livestock). Excessive levels of fecal coliforms or E. coli (over 200 CFU/100 mL) indicate a health risk and may compromise swimming. A preliminary assessment of a site's vulnerability can be made by considering the river's water quality history, frequency of overflows, fecal coliform levels in nearby effluent, the presence of livestock farms, and the dilution capacity of the environment.

The Fondation Rivières puts its expertise and tools at your disposal to help you in :

Soil quality

Sediment at a potential swimming site may be contaminated and pose a health risk if it is resuspended during swimming. Is there a history of industrial discharges near the proposed swimming site? If so, it is necessary to have the site's sediments analyzed to ensure that concentrations of heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other toxic contaminants are negligible. In the case of a contaminated site, it may be necessary to cover the bottom of the swimming site with a layer of sand to prevent resuspension or to perform decontamination work.

Step 3: Assess Site Vulnerability

Once the decision to open a swimming site is made, it is important to develop a protocol to limit the vulnerability of the site and ensure the safety of swimmers. The Fondation Rivières can help you.

If the area of interest is affected
by one of the following pressures :

  • Dry weather contamination from unknown origin
  • Recurring wastewater spills
  • Non-conforming septic tanks
  • Crossed-connections
  • Livestock farms
  • Absence or lack of historical water quality data

The Fondation Rivières offers you its services for :

  • In-depth diagnosis of the swimming potential
  • Water quality monitoring
  • Screening for sources of bacteriological contamination

If water and soil quality
is satisfactory:

Swimming can be considered, but be sure to implement regular water quality monitoring! Rivers are dynamic environments that respond quickly to contamination elsewhere in their watershed. Water quality can change rapidly and it is the responsibility of the operator of a swimming area to ensure that it is satisfactory. The site must also be operated and monitored in accordance with Section IV of the Règlement sur la sécurité dans les bains publics.

Questions, uncertainties, need help in implementing a follow-up program?

The Fondation Rivières offers you its services for :

  • Water quality monitoring
  • Assistance in the opening of a beach site that already has a good potential!

Warning : 

This opening guide is a simplified adaptation of the Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality in Canada and describes the general process for opening a swimming site. Specific safety issues at certain sites may require a particular approach (e.g., presence of tides, waves generated by motorboats, history of blue-green algae blooms). If you decide to go ahead with the opening of a swimming site without the support of the Fondation Rivières, it is strongly recommended that you refer to this guide and conduct a safety and environmental health survey before the first opening and before the beginning of each swimming season.

Any questions ?

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