Coliforms and E. Coli (types of bacteria) act as indicators and help determine whether water is safe for drinking. Coliform bacteria is present in animal waste and sewage but may also be found in soil and vegetation, therefore these bacteria may originate from septic system leachate, animal manure or soil run-off. E. Coli (Escherichia coli) are bacteria found in the intestinal tract of people and animals. Therefore its presence in water would indicate recent sewage contamination. E. Coli and other types of bacteria found in sewage may cause disease.
HOW TO INTERPRET E.COLI SCORES: Lake water should always be boiled or treated before drinking. When swimming, try to avoid swallowing lake water. At E.Coli levels of 100 and above the Provincial Health Department usually closes a beach until the level drops.
Bacteriological testing has always been an important issue for many lake stewards, but since the Walkerton tragedy, it has become a vital subject for anyone. With regards to human health, people look toward surface water for bacterial contamination as most effects of human activities occur here.
Are the bacterial levels found safe? The Provincial standard for safe drinking water is zero for E.coli and ten for coliforms. For swimming it is 100 E.coli and Ontario usually closes beaches to swimming when the levels reach 100. It should be noted that the provincial standard is an average across the entire province. 100 E.coli in swimming water is high, especially when kids are frolicking in the water and gulping it down. This may be acceptable in beaches near industrialized cities where people don't swim in the lake often, but it should not be acceptable for our "pristine," cottaging lake.
In order to observe any changes to the lake's bacteriological quality, the Association has been submitting lake water samples since 2000. From the charts found in the "Water Quality Results" on this website there were a few 0 levels in 2000 and 2001, but none since then and bacteriological levels appear to be rising. We encourage the membership to be proactive and disinfect all drinking water taken from the rivers and lakes, no matter how clean it looks.
Water may contain invisible, but harmful organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoans and cysts) which can cause nausea, typhoid and hepatitis. Giardia, a protozoa causes "Beaver Fever" and is carried in the feces of many domestic and wild animals including the beaver and contaminates the water. It is suggested that you have your treated drinking water tested at least three times a year. Bottles to test treated lake or well water can be picked up at the Parry Sound Health Unit at the Parry Sound Mall and returned there for testing by the provincial laboratory (no cost).
The Association samples various sites and has the water tested for the presence of coliforms and E.coli. Normally E.coli is not a problem, but because they are intestinal bacteria, they can be accompanied by other serious pathogens.
Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infections after swimming in polluted water. The most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by sewage is gastroenteritis. It occurs in a variety of forms that can have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea, headache and fever. Other minor illnesses associated with swimming include ear, eye, nose and throat infections, rashes and swimmer's itch. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever. Most of these diseases require ingestion (drinking or swallowing) of the infected water, although some can be transmitted through wounds exposed to water.
MLCA members should not be overly concerned with E.coli results. The tests indicate if there are problems and where the problems are. Cottagers should be able to take precautionary measures based on the identified hot spots. They can decide on the use and treatment of lake water and where lower risk areas are for swimming and playing in the water. The tests have also identified in the past a pollution problem due to a leaky septic system.
E.coli are used as an indicator organism. We test for it for two reasons: 1) they are easy to grow in a laboratory and indicate sewage contamination and 2) they are not normally found in lakes and when found indicate pollution from human and animal excreta.
"Overgrowth" refers to large numbers of non coliform bacteria, which also grow on the plates in the laboratory during incubation and can interfere with detection of coliforms. It has been found that some non-coliform bacteria can actually kill off or inhibit the growth of the coliforms and E.coli and thus the numbers counted are less than actually present in the sampled water.
Please ensure that your septic system is functioning properly and that septic tanks are pumped when required, usually every three to five years depending on usage. Swimming safety is one of our primary concerns and overall quality of water including clarity, ecological balance, etc., should also be everyone's concern.