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LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — Next time you go to the beach, think about the people working hard to make sure that water is safe.
That includes budding little scientists!
The local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is expanding their Blue Water Task Force by partnering with science classes at local high schools to help test the water you’re swimming in every single week. The program launched at Jupiter Community High School two years ago and has recently expanded to Forest Hill High School in West Palm Beach.
“All of it makes a big difference in the end,” said Aaron Barnes, a volunteer for the Surfrider Foundation.
The foundation, founded and based in California, focuses on ocean conservation and beach preservation and has chapters spread out across the country.
The work of the volunteers is vital to maintaining healthy beaches in South Florida by testing water at beaches and waterways across the area every single week.
“Usually local governments sample biweekly or monthly,” said Barnes. “Our goal is to sample the entire coast everywhere we can."
Recently, WPTV followed the water as they took a sample at the Lake Worth Pier.
“We wade out, try to get in about waist deep water,” demonstrated Barnes.
Reaching just below the surface, volunteers gather a small bag of water and seal it off tight.
It’s then brought to the students at the Environmental Science Academy at Forest Hill High School.
Sophomore Enrique Shields was there waiting to test the sample.
It’s a fairly simple process which involves diluting the water and mixing particular enzymes or bacteria food as Shields calls it, into the sample.
“It’s basically to help whatever bacteria is in here multiply,” he said.
Then the students pour the water into a special tray that sorts it into little cubes and lets the sample incubate for a day.
“Sometimes the concentrations can be a little shocking,” said Shields.
He showed us what a final sample looks like. Holding a black light over the tray, some samples glowed more than others.
The more glow from the black light, the more bacteria.
“Procedures like this give experience for more lab work in the future,” he said. “Lots of people don’t even consider it when they go to the beach, what work went into keeping it safe and what work went into closing down beaches.”
Teacher Shawn McCall says these students are in training to protect the planet, all while helping you have peace of mind the next time you go to the beach.
“It’s incredibly important to get students involved young,” he said. “We really try to focus on hands-on experiences both in the field and in the lab, trying to get students exposure to what’s happening in their environment.”
Surfrider immediately alerts the county for any high bacteria readings they get in their samples.
They also post the results on their website.