July 5-12, 2004

Survey shows half of Toronto beaches meet Blue Flag eco-label criteria

Half of Toronto's beaches meet the standards required to fly the Blue Flag, an internationally recognized eco-label awarded to beaches which are clean and safe for swimming. A report released by Environmental Defence accorded seven beaches passing grades based on criteria such as water quality, environmental management, beach safety and environmental education. Toronto is the first city in North America to apply for Blue Flag certification.

Blue Flag certificates were awarded to the following beaches: Cherry, Hanlan's Point, Ward's Island, Woodbine, Balmy, Centre Island and Beaches Park. Based on water quality tests over the past several swimming seasons, Cherry Beach was ranked as Toronto's cleanest beach.

Deputy Mayor Sandra Bussin, Mike Price, Toronto's general manager of water and wastewater services, and John Campbell, president and CEO of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, were among the officials who gathered at Cherry Beach to accept Blue Flag certificates for all seven candidate beaches. "Cherry Beach isn't only Toronto's cleanest beach, it's also one of our city's great public assets," Campbell said, adding that "this is why making the beach more welcoming was one of our first projects."

"It's great to know that beaches in Toronto are comparable to beaches in Europe and South Africa where Blue Flags have been flying for years," said Environmental Defence executive director Dr Rick Smith. "Blue Flags along the waterfront will let the public know that many of our beaches are clean and safe to enjoy."

Clean water is one of the most important requirements to achieve a Blue Flag. To determine Blue Flag eligibility for Toronto's beaches, Environmental Defence monitored water quality tests last summer and assessed results from previous years. To qualify for a Blue Flag, beaches cannot be posted as unsafe for swimming for more than 20% of the season.

Beaches must also meet 27 strict international criteria covering environmental management, environmental education and information, and safety and services, in addition to water quality. To evaluate non-water quality data, Environmental Defence inspected each beach last summer for litter, lifeguarding, emergency systems, and environmental information.

Environmental Defence is currently working with the City of Toronto to ensure that the remaining standards will be met, including providing information on natural areas at the beach, creating additional environmental education opportunities and making emergency telephone access more available.

The city of Toronto plans to apply formally for Blue Flags for its candidate beaches this fall. The outcome of its application will depend on how good the water quality is this season. If all goes well, Blue Flags will be flying along Toronto's waterfront at the beginning of the swimming season in 2005.

Environmental Defence's full Blue Flag report, Making Waves: An evaluation of Toronto's beaches for the Blue Flag program, may be viewed on the TorontoBeach Web site, www.TorontoBeach.ca.

The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), based in Denmark, owns and operates the Blue Flag Program. Since 1987, the program has grown to include more than 2,900 beaches and marinas in 24 countries. Flying a Blue Flag means that a beach or marina has met all of the program's criteria. If at any time a beach or marina does not meet the standards, the Blue Flag is removed until the criteria are met. Environmental Defence is the Canadian national operator of the Blue Flag Program.

More information is available from Jennifer Foulds at Environmental Defence Canada, 416/323-9521, ext 232, E-mail jfoulds@environmentaldefence.ca, Web site www.EnvironmentalDefence.ca.

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