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A blue flag means a clean beach

Blue Flag flapping in the wind on Bayfield Beach in Ontario.
Blue Flag flapping in the wind on Bayfield Beach in Ontario.

Jill Colton, staff writer

Here's the tell-tale sign the beaches in your region are getting cleaner -- the prestigious Blue Flag is mounted in the sand. Here's more on the environmental water program.

Blue Flag beaches in Canada
Blue Flag beaches in Canada

The next time you're wondering whether or not a lake is safe enough to swim in, look for the Blue Flag flapping in the wind.

According to their website, the Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to over 3650 beaches and marinas in 44 countries across the world, including Canada.

The program is owned and run by the non-government, non-profit organization the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

“They feel it (Blue Flag program) adheres to a very high standard in environmental management, environmental education and information,” explains Aiden Grove-White, Environmental Defence. “The safety and services that are provided on the beach, along with suburb water quality, are some of the best in the region,” he adds.

Up until the turn of the millennium, Lake Ontario has historically been polluted. But Grove-White confidently asserts this is quickly changing.

“Cities like Toronto (and later on Hamilton) have done good work at reducing what is called combined sewer overflows into the lake -- which what was polluting them so badly.”

Is your beach flying a Blue Flag?
Is your beach flying a Blue Flag?

It's not just urban water flows that are susceptible to contamination. Lakes in rural areas can also be affected by toxins.

For example, says Grove-White, negative influences from agricultural run-off can often occur.

This is precisely what's happening with some of the beaches along the south east shore of Lake Huron.

When a strong storm hits, run-off from local farmer's fields coupled with improperly installed septic systems wash into the water system, polluting it in the process.

This is where urban centres have an advantage in the clean-up process. “Larger cities can actually fix some of the problems they're having with water quality -- by doing infrastructure upgrades.”

White-Grove believes the Blue Flag program is both inspirational and educational because it gives people the encouragement to fall in love with their local beach.

“We want people to make it the best healthiest possible part of the shoreline they can,” he says. “Then, slowly but surely, turn around the entire Great Lakes basin.”


Blue Flag Beaches in Canada
MunicipalityBeach Name
Municipality of BluewaterBayfield Main Beach, Ontario
TorontoBluffers Park Beach, Ontario
TorontoCentre Island Beach, Ontario
TorontoCherry Beach, Ontario
City of TorontoGibraltar Point Beach, Ontario
Municipality of Lambton ShoresGrand Bend Beach, Ontario
TorontoHanlan's Point, Ontario
TorontoKew-Balmy Beach, Ontario
Town of the Blue MountainsLittle River Beach Park, Ontario
Town of the Blue MountainsNorthwinds Beach Park, Ontario
Central ElginPort Stanley, Ontario
Town of South Bruce PeninsulaSauble Beach, Ontario
KincardineStation Beach, Ontario
TorontoWard's Island, Ontario
Town of WasagaWasaga Beach Provincial Park, Ontario
TorontoWoodbine Beaches, Ontario

With files from Andrea Stockton

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