Gull wires won't go up at 2 Ottawa beaches this summer
Systems still in place to improve water quality at Mooney's Bay, Britannia beaches
Residents are worried about a potential increase of E. coli because the City of Ottawa won't install wires to prevent birds at Britannia and Mooney's Bay beaches this season.
The wires were installed three metres above sections of those beaches a number of years ago to help prevent the congregation of gulls, which are linked to driving up E. coli counts in nearby water.
The city said the wires will not go up this summer as it searches for other ways to manage seagulls and other birds.
"Seagulls will poop. The water will get polluted. People will get sick," said Jonathan Morris, a long-time resident near Britannia Beach. He credited the wires from keeping seagulls away.
"The beach went from being one of the worst in the city to one of the best."
It's worth noting at Mooney's Bay, which sits along the Rideau River, a water pump still prevents bacteria from growing in stagnant water, while a pier extension directs pollution away from the swimming area at Britannia Beach along the Ottawa River.
Summer without wires a pilot project
Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said this summer will be a pilot project to test how effective the wires really are.
"The jury's out exactly on how it works, in terms of how effective it is," said Kavanagh.
She said data from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) shows in 2017, when wires were up, there were 10 days where Britannia Beach was closed due to E. coli levels. In 2019, when wires were not installed due to flood damage, there were the same number of closures.
The councillor is also concerned about the number of birds that were caught in the wires in 2021, which "created some panic."
"Ducks and geese were hanging there," she recalled.
Don't feed the birds, city says
Kavanagh said the heat, rain, and garbage left behind by those at the beach also contribute to an increase in birds, which can lead to more water pollution.
A no-swimming advisory will be issued if bacteria levels are over 200 E. coli per 100 millilitres of water tested for one day or over 100 E. coli per 100 millilitres of water tested on two or more consecutive days, according to OPH.
The City of Ottawa plans to find other ways to limit birds at its beaches, including new disposal bins with closed lids, according to a statement from Dan Chenier, general manager of the city's recreation, cultural and facility services.
Chenier said the city will also urge residents against feeding birds through more signs, a social media campaign and the public address system at each beach.
Karen Patzer, president of the Britannia Village Community Association, called the timing of the decision "unfortunate" and hoped her organization would be consulted first.
Last weekend, when temperatures suddenly soared above 30 C, photos provided to CBC showed busy beaches with overflowing garbage bins.
Patzer said she wants the city to install the new bins with lids as soon as possible so birds aren't encouraged to visit the beach ahead of the summer.
Morris also said he is worried about "people getting sick because of the water quality."