By KEVIN CONNOR and SHARON LEM, Toronto Sun
 
Seven of Toronto’s 11 beaches are blue flag and as pristine as any body of water in Kawartha Lakes because of improvements that have been made to the sewage system, a city official says.
“Our beaches are the best kept secret and they are absolutely safe to swim in. You would be hard-pressed to think in the middle of the largest city in Canada there would be blue flag beaches,” said Michael D’Andrea, director of Toronto’s water infrastructure management department.
“We recognized we could do a lot by reducing the amount of water entering the system,” he said.
That includes having underground storage tanks, creating storm water ponds and even redirecting roof downspouts from entering the system.
The beaches in the city which are not blue flag include Marie Curtis Park, Sunnyside Beach, Rouge Beach and Bluffers Park and the reason is they are at the mouths of river.
Pollution can get into these spots when the combined sewer system gets overloaded with storm water which gets into the rivers and eventually ends up in the lake.
Another reason is that in some locations there are so many birds doing their business in the water.
But there were plenty of swimmers at Cherry Beach on Saturday.
Crystal Tawley had her children in the water.
“I’m really impressed with the quality of the water,” Tawley said.
Jude Stewart also had her children out for a swim.
“They test the water every day and it wasn’t closed at all last year. I just tell them not to drink it. If I was a better swimmer I’d be in, too,” Stewart said.
But there are others who just won’t take the plunge.
Julia Hambleton works at Toronto’s Harbourfront and despite her love of water, you won’t catch her swimming — even with Lake Ontario at her doorstep.
“I grew up in Toronto, but I won’t swim in Toronto’s beaches. I work down at the Toronto Harbourfront and I see the rubbish lying on top of the water after it rains,” Hambleton said.
“It’s a real shame,” she said.
Torontonians should take back all their beaches, says Elizabeth Brubaker, executive director of Pollution Probe.
“The effects of releasing inadequately treated sewage into our lakes and rivers is unacceptable because it threatens human health, closes our beaches and endangers our fish habitats,” Brubaker said.
“Torontonians pay taxes for a treatment system to fully treat our sewage, so we don’t have any right to pollute our waters in any way,” Brubaker said.
Toronto’s treatment plant involves a system where solid components are physically screened out and the water is then pumped into a second tank where micro-organisms eat the remaining matter.
Finally the micro-organisms are killed before the water is released back into Lake Ontario.
“At no time will raw sewage enter the system … what we do is initiate a partial bypass so rainwater (contaminated with) sewage receives the primary treatment, but it bypasses the biological part of the treatment and it is disinfected and chlorinated in the third part of the treatment process before it goes to the lake,” said Frank Quarisa, director of the city’s wastewater treatment.