Dirty Water in Rincón, Puerto Rico
May 31 2013 | Blue Water Task Force,
by Steve Tamar
So, we have extremely poor water quality all along the Rincon coastline right now! The colored indicators on the map above represent low (green), med (yellow) and high (red) bacteria levels.
This does not count as a 'contamination event' necessarily, in the sense of being totally unexplainable. What seems to be happening: due to the recent heavy rains, almost all freshwater outflows (quebradas) are discharging into the ocean. When this happens, the contaminated water does not mix evenly with the sea water but stays in 'plumes' usually near the surface (this is why in the lab we have to shake the samples thoroughly before processing them, to evenly distribute any bacteria). The waves are too small to break up these plumes and dilute them, and both the wind and slow shore currents will be keeping the contaminated water near the shoreline for the next few days- perhaps longer, if there is more significant rainfall.
If you want to go swimming, find out where the closest freshwater outflow is, throw a coconut into the ocean to see which way the shore current is moving (it changes!) and swim upcurrent of the outflow. This will not guarantee the water will be clean, but it will probably be cleaner!
The glaring exception this week is the bacterial count at Steps, where no freshwater outflow was observed. Usually this is the cleanest of the beaches, so perhaps the contamination is coming from outflows further north (since the shore current generally moves southward here) but without more of a budget we cannot investigate this possibility!
And yes, it does seem that the sewage treatment plant at Sardineras is not functioning properly either right now. Who knows how long that situation will last? Rescate Playas Isabela is filing a querella with the EPA (again) but for the next few days you will want to be very cautious about swimming in that area, especially if there are further heavy rains.
Learn more about Rincon's BWTF program, check out which beaches they are testing and what results they are getting here: www.surfrider.org/blue-water-task-force/chapter/4
The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF), presented by Emergen-C Blue®, helps local chapters alert citizens and officials in their communities about water quality issues and works to implement solutions. As clean water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, Emergen-C Blue is committed to supporting, enhancing, and extending the efforts of the BWTF by donating 20 cents for every box sold to further the important work being done to improve water quality. For more information about Emergen-C Blue and the Emergen-C Fund, please visit myemergenc.com/fund .