Blue Water Task Force, Partnerships, Water Quality
February 17 2015

Preguntaquas: Rincón BWTF expands in NW Puerto Rico

by Mara Dias

The Rincón Chapter BWTF begins a new collaboration with the University of PR at Mayaguez and CariCOOS

The Rincón Chapter BWTF has entered into a new collaboration with the Department of Applied Ocean Science & Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM) and the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CariCOOS).  The purpose of the Prequntaguas project is to increase public health monitoring of fecal bacterial contamination in recreational waters in Northwest Puerto Rico.

Project funding will allow the Chapter to extend their BWTF coverage of recreational beaches from Añasco to Aguadilla, approximately 45 miles of coastline, until May 31, 2015.   Over the last eight years, the Chapter has been conducting weekly water quality monitoring at 15 beaches and freshwater outflows from their main lab in Rincón and the satellite lab that they support at Ramey School in Aguadilla.   As part of this new project, the Chapter has added 7 new sites, and samples will be collected twice a week in the core study area, between the town public beach at Balneario and the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas.  Additional sampling will also occur to measure the impacts of weather events (heavy rainfall, large waves, etc…) on water quality. See where the Chapter is testing here. 

As government-run beach water testing programs have diminished in recent years in Northwest Puerto Rico, the Rincón Chapter’s BWTF program has been establishing itself as a reliable source of water quality information for beaches and recreational waters.  Their BWTF data has been posted on the NOAA-sponsored CariCOOS website for the last year. 

This new collaboration will allow the Chapter to not only expand their program, providing more information for beach go-ers, but will also give the Chapter the opportunity to start collecting valuable bacteria data needed to complete future planned studies aimed at assessing the impact of  long-shore currents, tides, rainfall, sediment transport and wave action on the fate of bacteria pollution along the coast of Rincón and Northwest Puerto Rico.

The Chapter also hopes that the data produced by this study will also assist in the identification, prediction and potential remediation of bacterial contamination sources.  Questions that they hope to answer include:

  1. Does twice weekly testing create a significantly different bacterial profile at specific sites? 
  2. What exactly is the profile curve during heavy rain events (do the bacterial counts diminish quickly, or on a constant gradient), and does this differ significantly between sites with and without a nearby fresh water outflow?
  3. Is intensive use of the IDEXX methodology a cost-effective way to do source tracking, or should the chapter acquire different equipment for this effort?
  4. Can the chapter organize and train enough volunteers to maintain the BWTF at this spatial and temporal extent once the collaboration is over?

Kudos to the Rincón Chapter and their sponsors at UPRM and CariCOOS for undertaking this important project to better understand water quality and the environmental conditions that affect bacterial contamination at beaches in Northwest Puerto Rico.