There was an article in the Burlington Post this week (http://www.insidehalton.com/news/article/822907–no-swimming) about not swimming in Lake O because of the E coli… and in fact they closed the beaches in Burlington because of it.  A few people asked me about this this week, so I read the article and posted a comment on it in the Burlington Post… because it was bullshit.  If you just skim the article it implies that they had closed the beach because of E coli… and proceeded to tell you all nasty things that can happen to you if you got infected with it… rashes, death or worse! (okay that’s a bit of an exageration, but along those lines). 

However if you read the article in more detail they had in fact closed the beach because they HADN’T TESTED FOR ECOLI YET… and figured it was better to be safe than sorry.  Fair enough.  But there is a BIG difference between closing a beach because the ecoli is too high… and closing a beach because they hadn’t tested for it yet!!!  And the proof was in the pudding… the way the article was written and given that several people emailed me wondering if we should be swimming anywhere in Lake O because the ecoli levels were high… implies that article was not at all clear on the distiction between the two. 

As far as E coli goes, yes, there are times in Lake Ontario (or any lake for that matter, just that they don’t test the other ones… nobody tells you that though!) when, in certain areas and under certain conditions, one perhaps should not swim.  However, it is usually when the water is very warm, in areas that are shallow, and in areas that are secluded and the water doesn’t circulate well, also if you are swimming near a sewer outlet after a storm or an area where there are a lot of geese.  Where we swim in Oakville, the water is deep… which also means it is colder too (a pro and a con) and not in a bay, so the water cirulates well.  Also we typically don’t swim near sewer outlets and don’t swim were there are large populations of geese.  (ecoli commonly comes from goose poop and human waste).

Remember Lake O is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world… to make a generalization about one small area of the lake and apply it to the whole lake is crazy!  For the most part, Lake O is one of the largest, cleanest bodies of water on the planet… great for swimming in!

On the anecdotal side and not truly scientific, but I’ve swum in Lake O every weekend of the summer for the past 5 years with LOST swimming and several times on my own when I was training for the English Channel and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, that’s about 100 times… and I’ve never had so much as an ear infection.  On the other hand, our LOST ginea pig, Darren, swam in Gullivers Lake 3 times this week… and has about 45 spots on his body from mosquito larvae.  Don’t get me wrong, Kelso and Gullivers and the like, are great places to swim, I’ve swum in both numerous times, but usually when they are colder, because once they warm up, like all lakes, things start growing in them.  It’s just that because they are small and shallow, they warm up sooner.  And your odds of this effecting you become greater. 

So the next time someone looks at you astonished that you swim in Lake O and wonders if you have a green glow or a third eye or something, set them straight about the urban myth and the reality… that Lake O is a GREAT place to swim!

 Just had to get that off my chest.  😉

 Cheers,

 Rob

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I founded LOST Swimming because I like open water swimming and would like to see it grow and thrive in Lake Ontario. I started as a competitive swimmer as a kid and ended up getting as far as a silver medal at Nationals and going to the Olympic Trials in 1988. But I retired after that, I was sick of swimming. So I got into running marathons and have run over 35 to date, as well as a few ultra marathons, including the Marathon des Sables (7 day, ultra across the Sahara Desert). I also kind of fell into triathlons and have done a handful of Ironman tri's too. This gradually got me back in the water and in 2006 I took the plunge and attempted swimming the English Channel. I didn't quite make it across, but the circle was now complete and after 17 years I was a swimmer again! Although I still do plenty of pool swimming, I now much prefer open water swimming and like to say that open water swimming is to pool swimming, what trail running is to treadmill running! As a result I hope to encourage more people to join me for a dip in Lake Ontario as often as we can!

1 COMMENT

  1. Ihave lived in Burlington since 1956. I HAVE TO GO TO THE HAMILTON SIDE TO SWIM WITH MY DOG WHO IS A MEMBER OF MY FAMILY. BURLINGTON DOES NOT ALLOW DOGS ON THE BEACH. I HAVE TO GO TO HAMILTON TO LAUNCH MY SEADOO BURLINGTON DOES NOT HAVE A LAUNCH. BURLINGTON IS NOT A FRIENDLY PLACE TO LIVE AND HAMILTON IS A MUCH BETTER PLACE TO SWIM ON THE BEACH.

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