Recent heavy rain takes toll on water quality

August 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Water Quality

Heavy late-summer rains and storm water runoff are being blamed for high bacteria levels at local waterfront parks.

The Okaloosa County Health Department reported Thursday that water quality is poor at 10 of the 13 sites it regularly monitors for enterococci, bacteria found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals.

“You’re going to see spikes in the summer,” said John Hofstad, [the Okaloosa county] public works director. “When you get significant rainfall after extended dry periods, you get that sheet flow of storm water across roads and across lawns … picking up animal waste and various pollutants.”

That polluted water flows into local bays and the Gulf of Mexico, he added.

Signs warn visitors of high bacteria levels and state that swimming is not recommended.

The Health Department uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard to measure local enterococci levels.

Water quality is rated good, moderate or poor, based on the number of enterococci per 100 milliliters of water. Typically, when levels are high — 105 or more per 100 milliliters — people who get in the water may experience symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal illnesses and mild diarrhea to rashes and skin infections.

“You always swim at your own risk in a natural body of water,” Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman said. “The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems.”

Healthy people who swim in the polluted water likely will see minimal or no symptoms. But open cuts or sores could result in minor inflammation and infection, she added.

Hofstad, who has studied local water pollution issues since the early 1990s, said improving storm water protections help but will not solve the problem.

“Every time you install a storm water separator, you’re making some attempt to reduce pollutants, and it will have an impact … but you’re still going to have those points on our coastline where storm water will flow into the bay.”

Editor’s note: While this article is region-specific, I’ve included it because of the sheer number of similar articles I have sifted through across not only the country, but the world. E.coli levels at beaches due to runoff and in many instances sewage being pumped directly into the sea is at epidemic proportions and deserves to be brought to awareness and looked at closely by the general public.

Article source: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/beach-51906-quality-water.html

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