Safe Canadian Beaches Get a Blue Flag

Blue flag beach in Toronto photo

Photo credit: Julie Grant/The Environment Reporter

Several beaches surrounding the Great Lakes have been shut down this summer because of pollution concerns. Despite Lake Ontario's unsavory reputation for being too polluted to swim in, however, Lou DiGeranimo, Toronto’s general manager of water, insists that the water is just fine. “When you talk to certain people in the city, they remember the old industrial heart of our city and they think that Lake Ontario is polluted and you shouldn’t swim in it," he tells The Environment Reporter. "Well we beg to differ. You can swim in it and our water quality is actually quite good."

Several Toronto beaches unfurl the Blue Flag
In his quest to change Lake Ontario's public image, DiGeranimo has managed to get six Toronto beaches certified as safe by an international third-party program known as Blue Flag. To be able to fly the Blue Flag, both literally and figuratively, the city has to test water quality every day, as well as provide lifeguards, recycling containers, and environmental education programs.
Water quality is key for Blue Flag beaches
One of the biggest obstacles to certification has been water quality. Although a Blue Flag now flaps in the wind at Toronto's Woodbine beach, its sewer used to overflow regularly into Lake Ontario, and the city had to build underground retention tanks to store sewage overflow until it could be sent for treatment.

Toronto has also banned the use of certain lawn chemicals because they were running off from well-manicured front yards into the lake. Although the ban was a tough sell, according to Jody Fry, Canada's national Blue Flag program coordinator, it's helped qualify many of the city's beaches for Blue Flags.

Who is Blue Flag?
Run by the Foundation for Environmental Education, Blue Flag works toward sustainable development at beaches at marinas through its voluntary eco-label—which has been awarded to more than 3,2000 beaches and marinas in 37 countries throughout Canada, Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean—using strict criteria that deals with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety. ::Environmentat Report
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