By Jacqueline Quynh
Published: April 19, 2023
FORT LAUDERDALE - Get out of the water... At least for a few days, that's what officials testing waters around flooded areas in Fort Lauderdale want recreators to know before they head out.
"After flooding events or rain events especially when it's the first flush, so the first rain after a long dry period it flushes everything from the street," Rachel Silverstein, Miami Waterkeeper Exec. Dir. said.
That's not unusual, but the amount of rain that submerged parts of Fort Lauderdale is and that's caused bacteria levels to climb much higher than they've been totaled for the last two years of data from the non-profit.
"So we had a lot of the sites that we routinely monitor exceeded the bacteria limits," she said.
The environmental group collects samples between Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and is contracted through the City of Fort Lauderdale to collect at 10 sites. They shared data of enterococci bacteria from before the rainstorm, and after. In some places, the increase was over 100 times what was deemed safe.
"Enterococci is a type of fecal bacteria and that does not necessarily mean that there is necessarily sewage or waste in the water, but this bacteria is commonly associated with sewage so the EPA has said this is a pretty good indicator that when you see it at high levels, there may be sewage in the area," Silverstein explained.
Not only could there be a ton of bacteria in the water, but Natalia Soares Quinete a researcher and professor of biochemistry at FIU warns there could be other contaminants in the water.
"PFAS, pharmaceuticals could be associated with higher HLB surfactants, this is another concern, it's not only bacteria but there's also a lot more over there that people are not currently measuring," she said.
So how long should one stay away from the water?
"I think you would want to give the beaches, the canals, here in Miami Biscayne Bay a minute to recover, maybe a couple of days, a week and we're already seeing water quality improve," Silverstein added.
Despite high bacteria, so far there have not been any announced closures of public beaches or spaces.