New scientists have been hired to study Great Lakes water quality. ((Steven Bull/CBC News))

Three new scientists, dedicated to researching issues affecting the Great Lakes, have been hired by the International Joint Commission (IJC).

The IJC is an independent scientific group that advises both the U.S. and Canada on how to protect waterways that lie along or cross the border. 

The commission has a long list of projects on the go including protecting the quality of drinking water and improving the safety of public beaches.

"They really come down to three things: Are the waters drinkable? Are they swimmable? And are they fishable?" said U.S. co-chair Lana Pollack.

Improving water testing for Great Lakes beaches is one of the things on which the new scientists will focus. 

In Windsor, Ont., some beaches were closed for weeks at a time this summer because of high E. coli counts. Research has indicated weekly testing of public beach waters hasn't been effective, said physical scientist Raj Bejankiwar, one of the three experts hired by the IJC.


Windsor, Ont., beaches were closed for weeks this summer because of high E. coli counts. ((CBC News))

"The results are showing every day the E. coli dynamics is so variable," said Bejankiwar. "So you can't have that kind of system, sampling one time and advising not to go for a whole week. So it's a very complicated issue."

Bejankiwar said Thursday the scientific community is looking at whether E. coli testing, which measures fecal contamination, is an accurate way to measure water safety.

"Now more science is showing there is not much correlation there, so that is also an aspect."


The three new scientists hired by the IJC have professional experience in engineering, water quality monitoring and acting as an industry watchdog on environmental legislation.

Bejankiwar will be looking at how the current testing is done, as well as what might be a better method of testing for water safety at public beaches.