In the wake of the “hundred-year” storm that flooded Toronto the city has declared several beaches unsafe for swimming.
Currently, two beaches – Centre Island Beach and Rouge Beach remain closed and fail to meet the water quality standard for E. Coli levels.
Information on Toronto beach closures and daily water quality tests can be found here.
Mahesh Patel, a manager at Toronto Public Health, could not confirm what the levels were at the eight Toronto beaches that were closed Friday, including Marie Curtis Park East Beach, Sunnyside Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Centre Island Beach, Ward’s Island Beach, Cherry Beach, and Rouge Beach.
At Sunnyside beach specifically, Mr. Patel said “it will take a while” for the water to return to normal levels. But Rouge beach should be fine in a “day or two.” Sunnyside was deemed safe for swimming on Saturday, while Rouge beach has fluctuated from safe to unsafe since Friday.
Marie Curtis, Rouge and Sunnyside Beach are impacted by rivers and because runoff from farmland is carried by the watersheds into the lake they are non-Blue-Flag beaches. The Blue Flag Program is an international program that supports the maintenance of high water quality.
According to Lou Di Gironimo, general manager at Toronto Water, despite the fact that Humber Bay Water Treatment Plant in Etobicoke lost power Monday, this did not affect the water quality because of the city`s central control system that distributes the system load across the city’s three other water treatment plants.
Clarifying that the type of E. Coli the city tests for is not the same as the kind found in meat products Mr. Patel explained in an interview that E. Coli is an indicator organism that is found in animal and human guts. That indicator gives public health officials an estimate of what the chances are that a person might get sick.
The most susceptible groups are children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
Toronto’s current standard is 100 E Coli. organisms per 100 millimetres of water.
“That’s the highest standard in the world,” said Mr. Patel. But he did add that it’s “best not to go and swim.”
During Monday’s storm, Toronto saw more than a month’s worth of water fall in short span of time. At Toronto Pearson Airport 94 millimetres of rain fell in two hours, whereas the average for the month of July is 74.4, according to Environment Canada. The total for the day was 126 millimetres between 4 p.m. and midnight and the bulk of it fell between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to Peter Kimbell, meteorologist for Ontario with Environment Canada. At 5 p.m. there was 15 millimetres and by 6 p.m. there were 90 millimetres – that`s 74 millimetres in one hour.
“This is a very unusual storm,” Mr. Patel said of Monday’s massive torrential downpour. “This was a hundred-year storm.”
As a result of the extreme weather event, flooding on the city`s roadways brought traffic to a standstill, there were massive power outages and the subways shut down.
“Everything was over capacity with this rain event,” said Mr. Di Gironimo.
The sewers filled up very quickly and the surface flow, which could pick up contaminants and pollutants, then got into buildings and flooded basements across the city.
Home repair stores have been overrun with shoppers looking for mould prevention options, dehumidifiers and industrial fans.
A sales associate at a downtown Stephenson’s Rental location said their waiting list for dehumidifiers has had 17 people on it since Wednesday. The Richmond street store invested approximately $9,000 in new industrial fans to deal with demand from the storm, according to Steve Whinery.
At Home Depot locations across the city, store managers and sales associates have been busy with customer inquiries since Tuesday morning.
They’re looking for information on “how to dry out their basements and clean up the debris along with how best to prevent mould,” said Paul Berto a spokesperson for Home Depot.
The city does have policies in place for dealing with basement flooding, but that information is from 2005 and Mr. Di Gironimo said it may be time to revisit that information.
Since 2005, the city has been increasing storm sewer capacity and changing the overland flow capacity in subdivisions across the city.
The city has $2.7-billion earmarked for upgrades to storm and sewer infrastructure of the next ten years and $915-million of that is for dealing with improvement for basement flooding.