The Rincón Chapter tests 14 marine and freshwater sites in northwestern Puerto Rico on a weekly basis, collecting over 500 water samples in 2011 alone. During the course of the last five years, the chapter’s BWTF has had over 45 volunteers helping collect and process water samples.
This water-testing program provides vital information on the safety and health of local waters in areas where there is not much water quality data available otherwise. The Chapter tests beaches and rivers and seasonal streams that carry pollutants and storm water down to their beaches. The chapter sends out their weekly water testing results via email and includes photos, stories and notes from the field to make their reports more interesting and relevant for their readers. These water quality emails are sent to a massive list of 1,400 local constituents including Surfrider members, government agencies in PR, local and regional businesses and tourism agencies, media contacts, high schools, university professors and students and other interested local residents and non-profits.
The chapter’s primary lab is in Rincón, but in 2011 they helped another environmental group, Rescate Playas Isabella, set up a water testing lab in an Environmental Science class in the Ramey School in Aquadilla, where students now process samples from Isabella under the supervision of their teacher Herald Roettge. Many high school students have been BWTF volunteers in Rincón as well, some going on to compete in science fairs and others to pursuing degrees in microbiology and marine sciences.
The Chapter has also been collaborating with a team led by Dr. Josè Norat and Dr. Pablo Mendez from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus in Rio Piedras to complete a study of bacteria sources and bacteria-related diseases of the Elkhorn coral in the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas. As part of this study, the chapter has helped map all of the outflows from Rincón’s coastline including streams, old landfill sites, and sewage lines. This watershed contamination study has been a great opportunity for their BWTF volunteers to help conduct a scientific survey, participate in some much-needed research, and learn about the complex issues involved in bacterial contamination of Rincón’s beaches. The Rincón Chapter hopes this new collaboration can develop into a strong partnership to begin identifying and addressing some of the more serious local bacteriasources in their area and is currently working on securing more funding to keep this source tracking study going through the end of the year.
The chapter also provides water-testing services to local community groups on a sliding scale basis to evaluate potential drinking water sources.
Learn more about beach monitoring programs and water quality issues in Puerto Rico in the water quality section of Surfrider's State of the Beach, Puerto Rico Report.