Public health authorities routinely close, or "post," beaches when high levels of bacteria contaminate bordering waters, scaring off would-be swimmers with signs typically reading: "Warning. Polluted waters. Swim at your own risk." During the summer of 1996, Toronto Public Health Services posted beaches on the city’s west side three quarters of the time. Some years the department has warned swimmers away for virtually the entire summer. Recent years have also seen closings elsewhere along the Great Lakes shoreline, from Thunder Bay to the St. Lawrence River. In the nation’s capital, The Ottawa Citizen has described BritanniaBeach on the Ottawa River as "a giant toilet that doesn’t always flush."
This article, from The Next City, reviews the inadequate sewage treatment processes and the regulatory failures that have led to the closing of beaches across Canada. It documents the environmental benefits arising from the privatization of sewage treatment in England and Wales and examines the institutional changes responsible. It concludes that privatization, if done right, could clean up our beaches.