Blue Flag nomination for Gimli Beach raises eyebrows
Manitoba's Gimli Beach is being recognized for being safe, clean and environmentally sound, but beach-goers aren't so sure if the water is that clean.
Gimli Beach, located along Lake Winnipeg, has been nominated for a Blue Flag designation for "extraordinary and safe beaches."
To earn the designation, beaches are judged by an international expert jury on dozens of criteria, including water quality, environmental education, safety and services.
While Gimli Beach is known for its beauty, people who visit the beach did not have as much praise for its water quality.
Karen Gottfried said she takes her grandchildren to Gimli Beach, but if they go into the water they'd get a bath afterwards.
"I used to bring my kids down here. It was fine. You know, you never had to think of having a bath or a shower after," she said Thursday.
"But now I don't even really go in the water anymore."
E. coli levels at Gimli Beach exceeded acceptable levels three times last year.
Toxic algae in Lake Winnipeg earned it another international title: Global Nature Fund's Threatened Lake of 2013.
"I think it's kind of a lie for people to say that this water is clean [when] it's so clearly not clean," said April Bailey, who was at the beach with friends.
But officials with the provincial government and the agency that administers the Blue Flag award say beaches in Canada are safer than people think.
"There are a lot of challenges in this large international watershed, but that does not mean that the water at the beaches is not excellent for swimming," said Nicole Armstrong of Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.
Manitoba tries to get U.S., provinces to sign lake accord
The Manitoba government says it will try to persuade three provinces and three northern U.S. states to sign an accord to save Lake Winnipeg.
Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh says Canada's "sixth great lake" is one of the most threatened lakes in the world.
Lake Winnipeg is being threatened by huge algae blooms — some so large they can be seen from space — which feed partially off pollution that flows into the lake.
Mackintosh says half of the water flowing into the lake comes from Manitoba and the rest comes from nine other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States.
Mackintosh says it won't be easy to convince everyone to clean up local waterways, but he would like to see an accord signed in the next few years.
Henry Venema with the International Institute for Sustainable Development says action must be taken now to save the lake.
With files from The Canadian Press