New year, new water quality standards

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-01 19:35:20-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- Starting today, the sea water you're swimming in will have to meet a higher water quality standard. Dubois Park posted a no-swim advisory five times in 2015. This year, the park goers could see an increase in days when bacteria counts put the water off limits.

The Florida Department of Health tests bacteria levels then notifies lifeguards if a beach needs to close.

"They'll notify headquarters. Headquarters will let us know. We'll change these signs and put up a red flag and notify the public of what's going on and that they can't enter the water safely," explained Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue lifeguard Russ Gehweiler.

Florida Dept. of Health staff in Palm Beach County sample the water at 13 locations, from Boca Raton to Jupiter for enterococci bacteria. The new standards lower what prompts a bacteria-related no swim advisory; dropping the limit from 104 or greater Enterococci CFU (Colony Forming Unit) per 100 ml of marine water to 71 or greater Enterococci CFU per 100 ml. It's all to keep you from being exposed to disease-causing bacteria.

"Whatever they can do to stop it is good," said Gehweiler. "You do get a sore throat. If it's dirty water sometimes you can just taste it. You go swimming that whole afternoon maybe even when you wake up the next morning with a sore throat or something you know you just don't feel right."

Gehweiler says he's only seen a no swim advisory once or twice while he's been on duty, but says swimmers were not upset.

"They were just happy that we tested and could let them know that you know it was unsafe to go in the water."

Under the original beach sampling rules for palm beach county, bacteria advisories were posted less than five percent of the time. With the new standard advisories are expected to increase to about eight percent of the time.