The City of Helsinki's Environmental Health Unit monitored the hygiene of beaches and the quality of swimming water during the swimming season (15 June–31 August 2023). Helsinki has 25 public beaches, of which 12 are large and 13 are small.
A total of 148 swimming water samples were taken during the summer of 2023. The swimming water in Helsinki was mainly of good hygienic quality. 95% of the samples taken from beaches in the seaside were of good quality. Frequent rainfall reduced the quality of swimming water, especially at the beaches along the Vantaanjoki river, where all samples taken in the heavy rain were of poor hygienic quality.
The number and prevalence of blue-green algae in beach water was normal during the summer. Climate change and warming waters increase the risk of water-borne epidemics on beaches. So far, no epidemics caused by the swimming water of Helsinki beaches have come to light.
Classifications of beaches
At the end of the swimming season, the municipal health protection authority assesses and classifies the swimming water quality of each beach based on the results of monitoring examinations. The assessment and classification of swimming water quality is based on the results of monitoring examinations of samples from the last four swimming seasons.
The beaches of Marjaniemi and Pikkukoski have now been classified as poor for four swimming seasons. If the swimming water is classified as poor for five consecutive swimming seasons, the beach must be closed for at least one swimming season. This may become necessary for the Marjaniemi and Pikkukoski beaches in the 2025 swimming season.
The water quality classifications of the Rastila and Iso Kallahti beaches improved in comparison to the 2022 swimming season. After the 2023 swimming season, the Rastila beach is classified as satisfactory and the Iso Kallahti beach as good.
Water quality of seven beaches under enhanced monitoring
The City of Helsinki Environmental Services will monitor the water quality of the Marjaniemi and Pikkukoski beaches in an enhanced manner during the summer of 2024. Enhanced water quality monitoring will also be carried out at the beaches of Aurinkolahti, Hietaranta, Lauttasaari and Rastila, whose water quality is classified as satisfactory, as well as the beach of Iso Kallahti, whose water quality has been satisfactory or poor in previous years.
In addition to enhanced monitoring, extensive assessments have been carried out with the help of various actors on beaches classified as poor or satisfactory in order to improve the water quality of these beaches. Beach water quality has been found to deteriorate particularly due to rainwater draining near the beaches. The hygienic water quality of the beaches along the Vantaanjoki river – the Pikkukoski, Pakila and Tapaninvainio beaches – has been found to deteriorate due to heavy rainfall.
25 public beaches in Helsinki under regular monitoring
Water samples are regularly taken from beaches during the summer, and the hygienic quality of water is monitored by searching for faecal bacteria in the water samples. In addition to sampling, other factors monitored on the beaches include water temperature and the amount of blue-green algae and any other deviations. Public beaches are regularly inspected in accordance with the Health Protection Act.
The municipal health protection authority must draw up a list of public beaches before the start of each swimming season. Anyone can submit proposals for new public beaches. The locations of the new beaches must be safe and free of health hazards.