To meet growing concerns with polluted conditions at the beach in Florida and the uncertainty of future funding for beach water quality monitoring, the Miami Surfrider Chapter has officially launched a new Blue Water Task Force program.
Water quality has increasingly become a topic of concern along Florida’s coast, and rightfully so. Florida’s rich history of agriculture, rerouting freshwater, and development in areas prone to flooding has absolutely left its mark on its waterways. In July 2016, a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom caused Florida to declare a state of emergency, closing beaches, threatening coastal businesses, impacting fragile ecological systems, and posing a threat to human health.
The state’s wastewater infrastructure systems, both septic and sewers, are also increasing in age. With sea level rise, increasing intensity of storms, and coastal flooding, the situation seems to be getting worse. The systems that treat everyday wastewater from homes and businesses rely on underground infrastructure and electricity. As Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida, a combination of overwhelmed wastewater systems, and a lack of electricity to pump the water through the systems, discharged over 9 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into its coastal waters statewide. Although extreme, the impacts of Hurricane Irma, and of blue-green algae blooms have stayed strong in Floridians minds. Now they demand to know, where is it safe to swim?
The Florida Healthy Beaches Program coordinates water quality monitoring efforts at marine and freshwater beaches for fecal coliform and enterococcus bacteria throughout the state. In the past, the Florida State Legislature matched the State’s federal BEACH Act grant award of approximately $525,000 to fund their Healthy Beaches Program. Unfortunately in 2011, the State stopped allocating their share of the funding, and the program has been forced to rely solely on their federal BEACH grant to support statewide beach water quality monitoring and public notification programs. This cut in funding has resulted in a reduction in the number of beaches monitored and the frequency of sampling statewide, leaving visitors and residents at risk of being exposed to polluted conditions at the beach. Spencer Ash, the Vice Chair of the Miami Surfrider Chapter, has very clearly spelled out the threats of swimming in polluted water in this article from The Inertia.
To meet the growing concerns over water quality in Florida and the uncertainty of future funding for even the federal BEACH Grant program, the Miami Surfrider Chapter has officially launched a BWTF program to provide more water quality information locally that can inform beachgoers on where it is safe to swim, surf and play at the beach. Here are some photographs of the chapter's first sampling run.
The Miami Chapter’s Blue Water Task Force program has designed their water sampling program to augment the FL Healthy Beaches Program run by the Miami Dade County Department of Health. The County tests five beaches within Miami Dade County on bi-weekly basis. To begin with, the Miami Chapter will be sampling those same beaches on the off-week, so there will be at least weekly water quality information available.
The Miami Chapter’s BWTF lab is set up within F1rst Surf Shop. Surfrider volunteers collect and process the water samples, and the lab’s public location provides great visibility for their program. All water quality results are posted online on the Blue Water Task Force Website, and also sent out in Water Quality Alert Emails (see example below).
If you’re interested in receiving these emails, click here.
Click here to see a map of the Miami Chapter's sampling sites and their results.
Click here to learn about the statewide effort to restore state funding for the FL Healthy Beaches program.
And join in Surfrider’s efforts to save funding for EPA’s BEACH Act Grants program that assists coastal states across the country in running their beach water quality monitoring and public notification programs. Just click here to send an email to your representatitves in Congress in support of the BEACH Act.