Catwalk could be closed for season 0
SEAN CHASE The Petawawa Catwalk, scene of voyageur canoeing during Canada Day celebrations each year, has been closed due to a high E. coli count.
PETAWAWA - This summer’s unprecedented drought has claimed another victim - the Petawawa Catwalk.
The popular swimming hole remains closed this week due to a high level of E. coli in the water.
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit “posted” the beach, located at Centennial Park behind the town hall, on Aug. 3 recommending people not use the beach for recreational purposes.
Between June and September, public health officials collect a minimum of five water samples from municipally-owned and operated beaches. They are analyzed by the provincial public health lab and tested for E. coli, an indicator of sewage contamination.
Bob Schreader, manager of the environmental health department at the Health Unit, explained Friday that if the geometric mean, or average, of five separate samples is greater than 100 E. coli per 100 millilitres of water then inspectors post the beach as unsafe for swimming. The issue at the Catwalk is the level of the Petawawa River which feeds the area. It is currently at historic lows because of the drought that struck the region in July.
“It has decreased to such an extent that there is no water flow,” said Mr. Schreader. “It’s almost like stagnant water.”
E. coli contamination can be caused by bathers, birds, animals, surface water runoff, sewage spills and private sewage disposal systems. The Catwalk was previously closed in the summers of 2008 and 2010 due to high bacteria counts. Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria can cause skin irritation, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, and intestinal or stomach illnesses if the water is swallowed.
This week, the E. coli was not as high as the week before, however, it remains at unacceptable levels, said Mr. Schreader. While they’ll continue to test samples, he is pessimistic the beach will reopen.
“Unless we get a fair bit of rain and the levels rise to a point where we get a good flush, I think it’s going to be closed for the remainder of the season,” he said.
Although bacteria counts have been low at the other beaches the health unit monitors across the region, he said the amounts of rain anticipated in the forecast could elevate counts because of the runoff they will generate.
For the latest advisories on the beaches, check the Renfrew County and District Health Unit website at www.rcdhu.com.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist