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DuBois Park in Jupiter tests higher for bacteria than others, according to health officials

Posted: 12:18 PM, Apr 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-22 22:28:43-04

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A popular beach in South Florida also has the distinction of being a breeding ground for bacteria, which is why health officials sometimes have to close it down.

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Twice a year, you can find Isa Cohen and her nephews at DuBois Park in Jupiter for vacation.

"My family loves it here," said Cohen. "It's got this little lagoon to play in so it's perfect."

It's also, according to tests, the perfect place for bacteria.

"Any communicable disease can be in there, we don't know exactly what," said FAU Harbor Branch Associate Malcolm McFarland. "People could come back with an ear infection, or they could come back with a stomach bug or something like that. Also things like gastroenteritis, typhoid, Hepatitis A, and various other viral or bacterial pathogens."

McFarland is talking about enterococci, or fecal matter. Enterococci can come from storm runoff, lawn care, animal and pet waste, even human waste. It's a bacteria the Health Department of Palm Beach County and the Loxahatchee River District test for at DuBois Park.

MORE: What is enterococci?

Since January, DuBois Park has tested poor nine times, more than many other beach in Palm Beach County.

"It’s really because of the location specifically of DuBois Park," said Alex Shaw, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County. "It’s got a number of things working against it. For example, it has Indian River that flows right to it. Also, the tide is very low. It's kind of cut off from the rest of the ocean and it’s hard for the bacteria to make its way in and out. So when we test it, it tends to be higher than the rest of the other beaches."

During low tide, the brown stagnant water from the lagoon fills this area where children are playing, Shaw said. That's when water quality is usually at its worst.

When high tide comes in, bringing in that blue clear ocean water, the bacteria is pushed back to the lagoon where it came from.

"At high tide it would be like after you flushed the toilet. Yes, that would be a clean bowl," said McFarland.

So what does McFarland recommend for parents?

"Enjoying the park at high tide, is probably preferable to enjoying the park at low tide. The ocean water is going to be a lot cleaner in that area," said McFarland.

Contact 5 asked the Department of Health, which tests water quality every two weeks, why they don't test every week like the Loxahatchee River District does. Health officials said that decision comes from the Environmental Protection Agency.

To keep track of bacteria levels in the water, you can visit the Loxahatchee River District's website by clicking here, or the Health Department of Palm Beach County's website by clicking here.