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Safe Water

Renfrew County and District Health Unit public health inspectors inspect recreational water facilities (pools, spas, splash pads, and wading pools) that are open to the public to make sure they comply with the Ontario Public Pools Regulation 565/90.

Public Health inspectors check these facilities for:
• Water chemistry
• Daily testing records
• System maintenance
• Safety equipment
• Supervision requirements
• Pool operator training
• Signs and markings

To view recent pool and spa inspections, go to the inspection disclosure website.

Please note, beach water testing for the 2024 summer swimming season will begin on June 17, 2024. 

One of the jobs for Ontario Health Units is to prevent or reduce illness and injury related to recreational water use. This includes inspecting and testing the water at public beaches during the swimming season.

The water is tested for E. coli bacteria. The presence of E. coli indicates recent sewage contamination. This can be caused by bathers, birds, animals, surface water runoff, sewage spills, private sewage disposal systems and pleasure boats.

Swimming in water with high levels of bacteria can cause skin rashes, eye, ear, nose and throat infections, and intestinal or stomach sickness if the water is swallowed.

If the test results show that there is too much E. coli in the water, a sign is put up. The sign states that the Medical Officer of Health advises people not to swim in the water because of high levels of bacteria. The sign is removed when further tests show that the water is safe for swimming again.

Sometimes a sign is posted at the beach to warn swimmers about other conditions like algae blooms, chemical contamination, or physical dangers.

Beaches owned and operated by municipalities are tested. Other beaches with public access may also be tested if the Medical Officer of Health believes that the beach is popular with swimmers and using the water may result in illness.

Tested Beaches
Beach Status
Burkes Road Beach Open
Lamure Beach Open
Pine Point Open
McLean Avenue Beach Open
Robert Simpson Beach Open
Braeside Beach Open
Barnet Park Open
Riverside Park Open
Rotary Park Open
McNab Park Open
White Lake Beach Open
Petawawa Point Open
Cobden Beach Open
Melissa Bishop Park Beach Open
Barry's Bay Beach Open
Gorman Lake Beach Open
Raglan Lake Beach Open
Mayflower/Sunset Beach Open
Wadsworth Beach Open
Whitney Beach Open
Genrick Beach Open
Kargus Beach Open
Murray Park Beach Open
Little Lakes Beach Open
Lake Clear Beach Open
JR Booth Beach Open
Sheryl Boyle Park Open
Island View Drive Boat Launch Open
Douglas Beach Open

Preventing Contamination of Your Well

If you get your drinking water from a private well, have your water tested for bacteria at least three times per year. Testing times should be spread out over the year, for example during or immediately after a spring melt, in mid-summer and in the late fall.

Your well can be contaminated by:

  • Openings in the well seal
  • Improperly installed well casing
  • Well casing not deep enough
  • Well casing not sealed
  • A source of contamination not related to well construction.
  • Improper grading around the well casing.

Take care of your well by ensuring that:

  • Sanitary seal or well cap is securely in place and water-tight
  • Well cap is at least 40 cm above the ground
  • Joints, cracks and connections in the well casing are sealed
  • Surface drainage near the well is directed away from the well casing
  • Surface water does not pond near the well
  • Changes in the quantity and quality of water are investigated immediately

Unused wells should be properly abandoned to prevent pollution of ground water and address any safety hazards. The hiring of a well contractor qualified to seal wells is strongly recommended.

Disinfecting Your Well

If your water test shows that bacteria were in the sample, your well may need to be disinfected (shocked). If you are unsure what the test result means, ask a Public Health Inspector: 613-732-3629 extension 505 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 505.

You can disinfect your well by adding the following amounts of regular chlorinated household bleach (5.25 % chlorine concentration). Do no use lemon-scented or other types of bleach.

  • Dug wells one meter (three feet) in width: Add one litre (one quart) of household bleach for every 1.5 metres (five feet) of water depth.
  • Drilled wells 15 cm (six inches) in width: Add five ounces (142 ml) of household bleach for every 7.5 metres (25 feet) of water depth.
  • Well points 5cm (two inches) in diameter: Add 85 ml (three ounces) of household bleach for every 3 metres(10 feet) of depth.
  • If you don’t know how deep the water is in the well, use the well depth to estimate how much bleach to add.

For detailed instructions on how to disinfect your well, see the Disinfection Instruction Sheet.

After disinfecting your well, boil the water for at least one minute before using until you receive good test results. Sometimes you may have to disinfect your well a couple of times in order to kill all the bacteria in the well water.

Emergency Treatment of Contaminated Drinking Water

If you are disinfecting your well it is because the water has been found to be unsafe. Until the disinfection is finished, you can make the water safe by:

  • Boiling it for one minute, OR adding eight drops (1.25 ml or ¼ teaspoon) of chlorinated household bleach (not lemon-scented or fabric safe) per 4.5 litres (one gallon) of water. Mix it well and allow to stand for 15 minutes. (This treatment will not kill parasites).
  • Chill boiled or treated water until used.

Please contact a Public Health Inspector:  613-732-3629 extension 505 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 505 if you are not sure what type of chlorine solution to use.

Caring for your Water Well After a Flood

Water wells can become polluted by flooding. Sometimes bad water has a nasty taste, odour, or cloudiness. Other times it tastes, smells and looks the same as clean water.

During a flood, dirty water may get directly into the water table through the well itself, through an old well or some other opening in the ground nearby. In this way it bypasses the natural purifying action of the earth.

Water wells may not be affected by floods. However, homeowners are urged to test all wells in the flooded area for bacteria.

Until tests show the water to be drinkable, all water for drinking should be boiled. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs. For more information see Boil water advisory frequently asked questions.

If you think or are told that your well water is unsafe because of chemicals, then boiling will make the problem worse. Instead, use another source of water such as store bought bottled water.

Call the Health Unit at 613-732-3629 extension 505 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 505 for further information about how to disinfect a well.

Government of Ontario – Floods


Government of Ontario – Testing and treating private water wells

Best Management Practices for Water Wells

Green Communities Canada – Well Aware Program

Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) – Homeowner Resources

For private well owners in Ontario, Public Health Ontario provides free well water testing for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and total coliforms bacteria. Renfrew County and District Health Unit provides water testing supplies (water bottles) to the public and delivery of samples to the Public Health Ontario Laboratory.

Water sample kits can be picked up and dropped off at the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (141 Lake St., Pembroke ON) and other designated locations throughout Renfrew County (see below).

Water sample kits are also available for pick-up at municipal offices in Renfrew County and District.

For all other environmental testing, including sodium, nitrate and chemicals, private well owners must contact a private laboratory.

If you get your drinking water from a well, you should have it tested for bacteria at least three times per year. Testing times should be spread out over the year, for example during or just after a spring melt, in mid-summer and in the fall. In addition to regular testing, well water should be tested:

  • after any work to pumps or plumbing;
  • if the well has not been used for several weeks;
  • if there has been flooding in the area, or
  • if there has been a change in water colour or odour.
Instructions for taking the sample come with the water sample bottles. Follow the instructions carefully and write all of the information requested on the sample form.
Take the sample as close as possible to the time you will be dropping it off for testing. If you are not dropping off your sample right away, keep it in the fridge or a cooler.

Dropping off your water sample

There are five (5) locations where you can drop off your water sample. (You can also pick up sample bottles.)

Note: Around long weekends and statutory holidays, please check with the Health Unit for possible changes to the schedules below.

Arnprior – McNab/Braeside Municipal Office

2473 Russett Drive, Arnprior

Hours of Operation:  Monday, Wednesday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Drop-off Times:

Monday – Thursday during regular office hours and Friday before 10:45 a.m.

Courier picks up samples Tuesday to Friday at 10:45 a.m.

Barry’s Bay- Lorraine’s Pharmasave

19566 Opeongo Line, Barry’s Bay ON
(613) 756-2013

Hours of operation: check with Lorraine’s Pharmasave

Drop-off Times:

September to April: Tuesdays before 2:00 p.m.

May to August: Tuesdays and Thursdays before 2:00 p.m.

Deep River Area – Laurentian Hills Municipal Office

34465 Highway 17, Point Alexander

Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Drop-off Times:

September to April: Tuesday only during regular office hours.

May to August: Monday and Wednesday only during regular office hours.

Pembroke – Health Unit Office

141 Lake Street, Pembroke
613-732-3629 Ext. 505

Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Drop-off Times: Monday – Thursday during regular office hours, and Friday before 8:45 a.m.

Courier picks up samples Tuesday – Friday at 8:45 a.m.

Renfrew – Town Hall building

127 Raglan Street South, Renfrew

Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Drop-off Times:

Monday – Thursday during regular office hours, and Friday before 10:00 a.m.

Courier picks up samples Tuesday – Friday at 10:00 a.m.

Interpreting your water test results

Public Health Inspectors are here to help you understand what your water results mean and how to fix any problems with your drinking water. Call the Health Unit at 613-732-3629 extension 505 or 1-800-267-1097 extension 505.

Do not rely on the test results of only one water sample. We recommend you take three samples taken one to three weeks apart to make sure your drinking water is safe to drink.


Public Health Ontario – Water Testing


Individuals on a salt (sodium) restricted diet or with a medical condition such as very high blood pressure or congestive heart failure, should be aware of the levels of sodium in their drinking water. If you are concerned, it is important to speak with your physician to determine whether you need to an alternative drinking water source.

Government regulated drinking water facilities are required to test water for the presence of sodium regularly. The advisory level for sodium in drinking water is 20 mg/L (milligrams per litre). This advisory level is for people on sodium-restricted diets and medical conditions as mentioned above.

Sodium is not considered a toxic element, therefore a maximum acceptable concentration for sodium in drinking water has not been specified. It is possible to taste sodium at 130 to 140 mg/L, and when it exceeds 200 mg/L, water will taste salty. There are many other sources of sodium such as processed foods and, in some homes, water softeners, which are usually much larger contributors to your daily sodium intake.  To help reduce your consumption of higher levels of sodium when using water softeners, use a separate, soft water supply (one that by-passes the water softening equipment) for drinking and cooking purposes as some foods already have a high sodium content.

If you have your own private well, you should consider testing your water for sodium at least once every 5 years.  As well, it is highly recommended to have your water tested for nitrates (important for babies receiving formula made with water from your private well). Contact a private lab that tests drinking water for sodium and nitrates testing.

Learn more by visiting: Fact Sheet – Sodium in Drinking Water



Nitrates in Drinking Water

Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that is found naturally in groundwater and in plants such as fruits and vegetables. In water, nitrates are tasteless, odourless and colourless. Nitrates can get into groundwater and into your well water through many sources, with human activities being the most common. Some of these sources include:

  • Surface runoff from agricultural activities (fertilizers and manure)
  • Failing septic systems (human waste)
  • Industrial process discharge, and
  • The natural decay of organic matter in groundwater.

If your well is poorly constructed or damaged, it is more susceptible to contamination. Municipal drinking water systems are tested regularly. For private well water, the only way to know if there are nitrates in the water is to have it tested by a licensed laboratory.

The maximum acceptable concentration for nitrate (as nitrogen) in drinking water in Ontario is 10 mg/L.

You should test your private well for nitrates:

  • At least twice initially – once in the spring and once in the fall because concentrations will vary with weather. If your well does not show signs of nitrate, you can test less often (every 2 to 3 years).
  • More frequently if nitrate levels are near the drinking water standard or if you have a dug well (less than 6 m deep).
  • If you have a treatment system to remove nitrate from your water, test the treated water annually to ensure it is working properly.

Babies (< 6 months of age) and Pregnant Women

In Ontario, the primary source of nitrate exposure is through food (for example processed meat), followed by drinking water. Consuming high levels of dietary nitrates can be harmful especially for infants under six months of age.

Exposure to high concentrations of nitrates can cause a condition called methemoglobinemia also known as “blue-baby syndrome”. Methemoglobinemia interferes with oxygen delivery to cells in the body. The most common symptom is bluish skin colour, particularly around the eyes and mouth. Nitrate exposure can potentially cause adverse pregnancy outcomes; therefore, pregnant women can also be considered a special risk group.

If your well water nitrate levels are above the Ontario standard and there is an infant (under 6 months) or a pregnant woman in the home, you should use another trusted source of water for drinking and preparing food (including formula).

Preventing Nitrates in Your Drinking Water

Boiling water will not reduce or remove nitrates.

Some steps you can take to reduce the presence of nitrates in your well water include:

  • Seek advice from a licensed well contractor or groundwater consultant to ensure your well is properly constructed and maintained.
  • Regularly inspect your well and test your well water. Hire a licensed well contractor if needed.
  • Identify sources of nitrate contamination around your property (fertilizers, septic tanks, manure, etc.), and prevent their entry into your well.
  • Reduce or remove potential sources of nitrates near your well.
  • Installing a water treatment system. For treatment options, you should consult with a water treatment professional.
  • Obtain water from a public (municipal) water system.


Fluoride is a natural mineral found in water, soil, and in some foods. You can also find fluoride in toothpaste, mouth rinse, tap water, even in some food and beverages.

Fluoride hardens and protects tooth enamel against cavities.

Some municipal water treatment systems add fluoride to drinking water as additional protectant for tooth enamel. The Ontario Ministry of Health requires that municipal water treatment plant operators monitor the level of fluoride in drinking water to maintain the concentration between 0.6 and 0.8 mg/l (milligrams per litre).

Most disposable water filters do not remove fluoride from drinking water. Check the label or contact the manufacturer for fluoride levels in bottled water.


Blue-green algae are microscopic plants that live in water. Under certain conditions they can rapidly increase in numbers to form a large mass called a bloom.

Blue-green algae blooms have occurred on water bodies in Renfrew County and District. RCDHU advises people to be on the lookout for algae blooms. If you suspect a blue-green algae bloom, assume toxins are present and make a report online or call the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060

The following are precautions to take during a blue-green algae bloom:

  • Avoid using the water for drinking, bathing, or showering and do not allow children, pets or livestock to drink or swim in the water.
  • Do not boil the water because this may release more toxins into the water.
  • Avoid cooking with the water because food may absorb toxins from the water during cooking.
  • Be careful when eating fish caught in water where blue‐green algae blooms occur. Do not eat the liver, kidneys, and other organs of fish caught in this water.
  • Do not treat the water with a disinfectant like bleach. This may break open algae cells and release toxins into the water.
  • Do not rely on water jug filtration systems as they do not protect against the toxins.
  • On lakes and rivers where blue‐green algae blooms are confirmed, people who use the surface water for their private drinking water supply should consider an alternate, protected source of water.

For detailed information on blue-green algae, visit: Harmful Algae Blooms – Know the Risks. 

Additional Resources: 

Public Health Inspectors enforce Ontario Regulation 319/08, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, by conducting on-site risk assessments and inspections of all Small Drinking Water Systems (SDWS) to protect the quality of drinking water and ensure safe water is provided to the public at all times.

What is a Small Drinking Water System?

Any premises or business that offers drinking water to the public from a non-municipal system (i.e. a well, cistern, lake) may be a SDWS.

Some examples include:

  • Seasonal mobile home or RV park, campgrounds, or resorts with 6 or more connections
  • Restaurants on private water systems
  • Hotels, motels and bed and breakfast accommodations
  • Recreational and athletic facilities
  • Places of worship
  • Places where service clubs and fraternal organizations meet
  • Any place where the general public has access to a drinking water fountain or shower

If you are an owner/operator of a SDWS, please visit RCDHU’s For Professionals – Small Drinking Water Systems page for more information and resources.


Call 613-732-3629 extension 505 with any questions about SDWS inspections or to report a complaint.

To view recent SDWS inspections as well as any adverse water quality incidents (AWQI), please visit Inspection Disclosures.

Inspection reports are also available through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Contact Renfrew County and District Health Unit for more information.

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Pembroke Office

141 Lake Street, Pembroke, Ontario K8A 5L8

Phone: 613-732-3629
Toll Free: 1-800-267-1097
Fax: 613-735-3067

Hours of Operation
Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Renfrew Service Hub (By Appointment Only)

120 Plaunt Street South, Renfrew, Ontario, K7V 1M5

Services offered by appointment only.

If you require an alternative accessible format or assistance accessing information on this page, please contact us at or 613-732-3629.