water quality press

Conflicting water quality testing can confuse and potentially sicken swimmers

Written by Hillard Grossan

Published: July 12, 2023

Read the original article in IslanderNews.com

C'mon in! The water's fine!

That's what swimmers likely were saying Wednesday afternoon on two of Key Biscayne's beaches after both recreation areas had received "red" status earlier this week on Swim Guide, based on recent weekly inspections and data collections.

But, the latest water quality test results from July 10 samplings at the Key Biscayne Beach Club and at Key Biscayne Beach by Miami Waterkeeper showed that bacteria levels "met recreational water quality limits" set by the Florida Department of Health in Miami.

Concerns were raised earlier when residents received notice that the beaches "failed to meet water quality standards," according to recent sampling for fecal contamination.

However, Miami Waterkeeper, a nonprofit that has a contract with the Village of Key Biscayne, shows that its most recent tests, on July 3 and July 10, at the Key Biscayne Beach Club did not exceed water quality standards set by the Florida Department of Health in Miami, nor did the tests done by the Department of Health's Healthy Beaches program on June 26 and July 5.

Samantha Barquin, Chief of Staff for Miami Waterkeeper, said a red status means "the beach's most recent test results failed to meet water quality standards. We leave it up to (swimmers) to make an individual choice."

She said they test for enterococci, a fecal indicator bacteria. A positive test does not necessarily mean the actual fecal matter is in the water, but the bacteria can cause skin rashes and those with weakened immune systems would be more prone to illness.

As new data becomes available, Miami Waterkeeper informs the public by updating the status of all area beaches in the Swim Guide.

Miami Waterkeeper's recent results:

– June 26: Key Biscayne Beach Club exceeded standards.

– July 3: Key Biscayne Beach Club did not exceed.

– July 10: Key Biscayne Beach Club did not exceed.

The Florida Department of Health's Healthy Beaches results:

June 26: Key Biscayne Beach did not exceed.

– July 5: Key Biscayne Beach did not exceed.

Surfrider test was conflicting

But, a different test last week showed a rather conflicting result. Testing done at Key Biscayne Beach Club on July 6 by Miami Surfrider's Blue Water Task Force shows the site exceeded water quality standards for the second test in a row, but this time by a huge increase.

High bacteria content is considered above 70 (density or population of coliform-group organisms) on the scale of MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml of sample water.

The latest test by Surfrider showed nearly 1,000 MPN/100 ml, the highest this summer.

Blue Water Task Force Lab Director Christi LeMahieu was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Surfrider's latest testing also showed bacteria levels slightly higher than the standard at Crandon Park South, but gave the green light to the water at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

The Florida Department of Health can issue no-swim advisories when samples its officials collect exceed the threshold for water quality standards safe for swimming. Details on the thresholds can be found here.

The Village of Key Biscayne contracts Miami Waterkeeper and collects and tests water samples under the auspices of Dr. Roland Samimy, Chief Resiliency and Sustainability Officer.

Sands condo resident Kathy Bohutinsky, who uses the Miami Waterkeeper app on her phone, noticed the red (no swim recommended) status on Key Biscayne Beach this week and was concerned.

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