Thunder Bay Beaches – Not Impaired (proposed redesignation)
Posted on: August 30, 2021
View along the shoreline of Lake Superior from Chippewa Park – Sandy Beach, Thunder Bay, ON

A recent assessment of beaches for the Thunder Bay Area of Concern (AOC) confirms that the Beach Closings beneficial use impairment (BUI) is no longer impaired for the AOC.

Thunder Bay AOC beaches, which include Chippewa Park – Main Beach, Chippewa Park – Sandy Beach, and Boulevard Lake – Main Beach, were considered impaired since the Stage 1 Remedial Action Plan (RAP) report (1991) due to elevated levels of bacterial (E. coli) contamination causing frequent beach closures, thereby affecting recreational use of the waterways. To help evaluate the Beach Closings BUI, a set of delisting criteria, or restoration targets, were established under the RAP. The delisting criteria states that the Beach Closings BUI can be redesignated to Not Impaired status when the following conditions have been met:

  1. All public beaches have identified the primary sources of fecal pollution, and pollution control plans have been developed and implemented, including:

    • Management of stormwater inputs
    • Upgrades of septic systems to provincial standards
    • Implementation of a management program for birds and animals
    • A completion of feasible actions to improve water circulation

  2. Water quality testing carried out at all public beaches on a regular, frequent, and ongoing basis demonstrates that 80% of geometric means have E. coli counts of 200 or less colony forming units per 100mL of water (≤200 E. coli/100mL)* based on a five-year monitoring average.

    *The E. coli standard of ≤200 E.coli/100mL is consistent with Canada-wide water guidelines from Health Canada and the Provincial Water Protocol.
View of the Sleeping Giant from Chippewa Park – Main Beach

Over the history of the RAP program, several remedial actions were undertaken to improve the state of Thunder Bay beaches. Completed remedial actions were measured against the delisting criteria, and as of 2020, monitoring confirms that all aspects of the delisting criteria for the Beach Closings BUI have been met.

Over the last five years, monitoring by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) at all three of the Thunder Bay beaches has found that:

  • 81% of the time bacterial counts are ≤ 200 at Chippewa Park Main Beach,
  • 98% of the time bacterial counts are ≤ 200 at Chippewa Park Sandy Beach, and
  • 93% of the time bacterial counts are ≤200 at Boulevard Lake Main Beach.

With respect to delisting criterion #1, many actions have been successfully implemented since the mid-1990s in an effort to reduce bacterial contamination and improve the health of public beaches within the AOC. Evidence shows these efforts have been successful in improving water quality as the beaches now meet the target under delisting criterion #2 based on a five-year monitoring average as stated above. Additional information can be found in the complete assessment report below.


Since all delisting criteria has been met, no further actions are required under the RAP program.

Additional or ongoing activities (such as the management of waterfowl) to further improve water quality at the Thunder Bay beaches would best be addressed by ongoing efforts by the City of Thunder Bay. The TBDHU will continue to monitor the area beaches. Information about the TBDHU’s monitoring and notifications to the public about swimming conditions in Thunder Bay can be found here:


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