Sources of E. coli on Beaches and in Beach Waters

There are many factors that contribute to the nearshore microbiological environment. These include E. coli loads carried by all area streams and rivers, beachfront currents, wind, storm, rainfall events and sediment loads carried to the beachfront area.

Sediment loads after a heavy rainfall, sourced in the Sauble River are most suspect in a beach event where colony counts exceed public health standards.

The Sauble River is known to be the largest of the contributors to beach E.coli loading. It is not correct to blame a beach closing on Sauble septic systems. The only groundwater testing done has shown little or no groundwater contamination within Sauble Beach.

Due to overwhelming volume the river has the most influence over beach front events.

Events of septic system failure can not be ruled out but mitigation programs are supposed to be in place and septic systems can be repaired. High resolution spatial surveys can be conducted in the lake to determine zones of influence on the nearshore from the Sauble River. This type of survey, when conducted during and after rainfall events, can be useful when monitoring and predicting water quality.

Over the past ten years, Sauble Beach has never been closed due to elevated bacteria levels. The average fc concentration from 1978 to 1988 is 85/100mL. This does not mean that there is not a problem however, since levels above the Ministry of Environment objective of 100 fc/100mL of water have been reported at the beach. The maximum reported was 336/100mL in July, 1980. The average fc count for levels exceeding the MOE objective is 205/100mL. 1991 CURB document, pg. 38

Recent geometric mean averages at Sauble Beach have been in the range 20-40 fc/100ml. This establishes that the long term trend has been improving since 1988.


Sources and Mechanisms of Delivery of E.coli (bacteria) Pollution to the Lake Huron Shoreline of Huron County
Interim Report:
Science Committee to Investigate Sources of Bacterial Pollution of the Lake Huron shoreline of Huron County
April 8, 2005  Read More...

Monitoring of Trends in Rural Water Quality in Southern Ontario
One major program, since discontinued, that attempted to deal directly with bacterial contamination of beaches from rural sources was the Clean Up Rural Beaches Program (CURB) initiated by MOEE and operated in conjunction with conservation authorities and health units between 1984 and 1996. Watershed and subwatershed sources of bacteria and phosphorus sources were mapped and strategies developed to cost-share with farmers and rural residents those practices that would effectively reduce pollutant sources.   Read More...

E. coli & Tiny Township’s Beaches
Environment Canada’s Studies 2005 - 2007
Dr. Allan Crowe
National Water Research Institute
Environment Canada
Burlington, Ontario   Read More...

1991 Clean Up Rural Beaches (CURB) Plan for the Sauble River Watershed
This report is one of a series produced under the Provincial Rural Beaches Program. The objective of the Program is to identify the relative impact of pollution sources, and develop a course of action leading to the restoration and long term maintenance of acceptable water quality at provincial rural beaches.  Read More...

The picture of the duck is showing the same weed in the river as what is in the beach picture. The other two pictures show the darker, sediment rich, river water flowing south along the beach.  Even with strong wave action it is not mixing with the Lake Huron water.

Sauble Beach Seaweed Duck and Seaweed in River
Dead vegetation from the Sauble River on Sauble Beach - June 28, 2010 Sauble River Sediment River and Lake Water
Sauble River water not mixing with Lake Huron water - June 30, 2010