Helping Grand Bend pass the test

Story and photo by Casey Lessard

Three years into the Clean Water Now project, Rotary club volunteers and the municipality of Lambton Shores continue to work to make Lake Huron water cleaner.
“We were concerned about pollution and the number of beach postings (due to high bacteria),” says Ron Hunt, chair of the Rotary clean water committee. “We thought, what can we do to ensure fewer postings? We also wanted a cleaner Grand Bend beach.”
The Rotary set aside $5,000 for each of five years, and the Community Health Foundation matched that figure. The municipality of Lambton Shores matched both, so the total figure is $20,000 per year designated for the project.
“We’ve given a lot of that back to Lambton Shores in a number of ways,” Hunt says, including a water measuring device off shore in front of the beachhouse. The equipment measures wave height, water turbidity, temperature, sunlight, and other conditions throughout the day. The information is transmitted to shore and directly to Lambton Shores offices.
Health unit staff and Rotary volunteers do the testing daily, and send water samples to be tested for E. coli. Results come back several days later, so they’re unreliable to make beach-posting decisions, but will be used to predict E. coli levels based on weather and wave conditions. Project funding also goes to the Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority to do testing at about 20 sites that feed into the lake.
“They’re still gathering this data,” Hunt says, “and hopefully we can have a model within the next year or so,” to allow decision makers to make the call on whether the water is safe. The information will also help determine why E. coli levels are high and where the bacteria is coming from.
“What will make it worthy,” says volunteer Stephanie Donaldson, “is when we can compile the statistics for the summer and look at three months of daily water testing. That’s when it will come to play. Some days you can look at it and it looks worse than it is.”
“Our objective is to make sure the Grand Bend beach is safe to swim, and keeping it that way. We’ve also been a big promoter of Blue Flag, and we were the ones who recommended the municipality apply for Blue Flag status. Meeting provincial standards 80 per cent of the time is one of the criteria. Last year we met that level, and we don’t know how it will go this year. We’re trying to do the testing and if something needs to be done, we’re going to do it.”