Gatineau beach water quality testing under scrutiny

A local river-watching group says it’s concerned about how often the water is tested at Gatineau’s city beaches.

Ottawa Riverkeeper wants 3 city beaches tested more often than every 2 weeks

There are fewer water quality checks in Gatineau and it's upsetting some people. 2:43

A local river-watching group says it’s concerned about how often the water is tested at Gatineau’s city beaches.

While water is tested daily at Ottawa’s five city beaches, Gatineau’s three city beaches — Parc des Cèdres, Parc du Lac-Beauchamp and Parc Moussette — are tested every two weeks.

Ottawa Riverkeeper ​volunteer Sheila Jones said she’s been volunteering to test water quality in Gatineau for two years, currently taking samples “every few days.”

“It concerns us that there doesn't seem to be the same sense of importance and urgency attached to it on the Gatineau side,” she said.

Ottawa Riverkeeper is an independent organization that tests water levels on the Ottawa River and posts the results for the public.

"If an area doesn't get any attention from the citizens it’s something that becomes like a sleeping dog. It just gets ignored."

More tests than province requires, city says

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Riverkeeper says they’re looking for volunteers to help them test Gatineau’s three city beaches more often.

Sheila Jones has been volunteering to test some of the water at Gatineau city beaches for the last two years. She says it's 'puzzling' Gatineau doesn't test water at its public beaches daily, as the City of Ottawa does. (Hillary Johnstone/CBC)
“If there have been strong rains, testing is delayed for 24 hours. When a test comes back positive for elevated E. coli levels, a second test is carried out to ensure accuracy,” they say on their website.

“At this point, if the test is once again positive, the province contacts the municipal beaches and orders them closed until the municipality is able to prove that the water has returned to normal levels. The municipality must use their own funds to either test the water themselves or hire someone to do it. Otherwise they must wait two weeks for the province’s next test.”

City officials in Gatineau said Thursday those biweekly tests are more than what the province requires, as they check municipal beaches three to five times a year.

"Although it is not our legal responsibility to test the water…we do eight to 10 tests on top of what the government does,” said city spokesperson Alain d’Entremont.

“We do more than what the regulation actually says."

D’Entremont said the city will test their beaches more often if they’ve yielded poor results in the past.