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Water quality testing in the Gulf of Mexico

July 29 2010 | Oil Pollution, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

Surfrider Foundation's network performed more than 9,000 water quality tests in the United States last year. I share that figure to establish the fact that we know water testing. Water quality tests are performed by Surfrider volunteers all over the globe. They do these tests to make sure local coastal waters are safe. You can read more about our water testing program here. However when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico, the spill has created a situation that is on another level. It's different because it's not as simple as testing for bacteria. We need to test for oil-related toxins and dispersant-related toxins. These tests are much more sophisticated, and much more expensive, than standard testing for water safety. Regular water quality tests cost about $5 each, but it can cost $200 + to test water for oil and dispersant chemicals. It's also different due to the test turnaround times. Typically it takes a day to test and post water quality results (24 hours is needed to incubate samples). Results are posted the day after the test was taken. There are a few rapid-testing (and also very expensive) tests being piloted in Orange County and other areas. These offer same-day results. But the turnaround for testing beach water in the Gulf is, at best,ten days. So, if they'll find out water is toxic and hazardous to your health they'll give you your warning... two weeks AFTER you were in the water. This is a very tough situation for Gulf residents, for water enthusiasts like surfers, for workers that come in contact with Gulf waters and for the various economies that surround the region. It's even tougher for the local ecosystems as BP has spilled the equivalent of eight Exxon Valdez spills and topped it off with a couple million gallons of a toxic cocktail. If you'd like to assist the local population understand the local water quality in the days, weeks, months and years ahead you can donate here. 100% of the funds go toward water quality testing and 100% of the funds stay local.
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