Florida Healthy Beaches Program Provides Vital Water Quality Information
By Dr. James Palermo // August 28, 2015
BREVARD BEACHES AMONG CLEANEST IN STATE
How safe are the waters off of our beaches? County health departments have been testing beach water quality since 2000, and issuing advisories when bacteria levels get too high.
With nearly $500,000 in federal funds to monitor water quality of Florida beaches this year, water samples are taken at beaches across the state’s 30 coastal counties and tested very specifically for enterococcus, a bacteria that occurs naturally in the intestine, but one that can trigger illness elsewhere in the body.
Coastal beach water samples are collected bi-monthly by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Brevard County and analyzed for enterococcus.
High concentrations of these bacteria may indicate the presence of microorganisms that could cause disease, infections, or rashes. The DOH’s Environmental Health is responsible for issuing health advisories or warnings when these conditions are confirmed.
A recent review of data collected under the Florida Healthy Beaches Program over the past 15 years reveals wide variation among counties. Hundreds of advisories have been issued for some coastal areas, while others, like the Space Coast (Brevard), were found to have very few samples warranting an advisory.
Of 5,620 water samples tested in Brevard only 6 triggered an advisory, which is the fourth lowest percentage (0.11%) of advisories of all counties tested.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong told Health News Florida, “What we work to do is to make sure that there are no unexpected consequences from enjoying our beautiful beaches.”
Testing for enterococci in coastal waters provides information related to the amount of human and animal waste present, and helps to determine if there is a population problem in that area. The posted advisories let the public know that there is risk and they should not go into the water.