Kingston joins citizen scientist initiative for lake water monitoring

Hospital Beach near Portsmouth Olympic Harbour is one of two locations along the Kignston shoreline now listed on the Swim Guide App. Photo courtesy of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

A new, free app by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is providing E. coli test results for Kingston swimming locations. Swim Guide, a free app and website to help people find beaches, now includes water quality results from two Kingston locations: Olympic Harbour Beach and Hospital Beach.

It’s part of a larger initiative from Swim Drink Fish, a registered charity that uses communications technology to help people around the world explore, understand, and protect their waters. The Kingston Hub is one of five; there is one in Vancouver, and four others in Ontario.

“Our efforts to test more, discover more and share more, will result in protecting and restoring more of Lake Ontario,” said Mark Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and President of Swim Drink Fish.

According to Swim Drink Fish, Swim Guide is the most popular beach information service in the world, with a growing community of 5 million users.

The Kingston Monitoring Hub tests weekly for E.coli bacteria at each location. E.coli indicates fecal contamination in waters, and an elevated E.coli count means an increased risk of contracting waterborne illnesses while swimming.

Volunteer citizen scientists assist Swim Drink Fish staff to monitor these locations. Mattson said the project follows the operational guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and complements the existing Public Beach Listings maintained by Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health.

“Testing this summer is important for many reasons including the meaningful support of the community and public officials at the City of Kingston, Kingston Utilities and KFL&A Public Health,” he said.

He noted that the Kingston Hub follows the successful model of the Toronto Monitoring Hub. Established in 2016, the Toronto hub saw 550 volunteer citizen scientists help monitor the waters of Lake Ontario last summer.

“It underscores how important the waterfront is to the community and how deeply people care about access to water,” Mattson said.

The Kingston Monitoring Hub lab operates in space provided by the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. Monitoring activities started later this year as a result of the restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 sampling season officially launched in July.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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