Bacteria sinks paddle board business

Posted at 7:30 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 04:06:38-05

With advisories to avoid contact the St. Lucie River about a mile from one launch location, a paddle board company is hanging up its oars at one location out of safety for its customers.

There's a big lock and a sign that says, "no paddle boarding here due to poor water quality."

That's what you'll find if you head over to Coastal Paddle Boarding.

"This is an ideal place to teach beginners, but I can't do it when the water's dirty," said Rochelle Neuman.

Dan and Rochelle Neuman have been running the Treasure Coast business for 6 years. About two weeks ago, they decided  to shut down their Port Salerno location where they say they do 90 percent of their business.

"They get here and I tell them don't go on it. Don't come into contact with it. Because the bacteria levels are so high," said Dan Neuman.

As soon as the Martin County Health Department advisories went up at Sandsprit Park about a mile away, the couple says they couldn't keep the location afloat. it’s partly because customers don't want to go in the water. The other part, neither do the Neumans.

The couple blames the water quality on the recent Lake Okeechobee releases. Less than two weeks ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging the maximum amount of water allowed into the St. Lucie Estuary.

The couple said they had to shut down back in 2013 also after similar discharges from the lake.

"It's not a coincidence," said Rochelle. "Whether it's the main cause or a side cause. It causes the bacteria."

The Health Department, however, says these bacterial levels started to increase before the discharges did, and that this generally happens after wet months.

"There's not real money coming in. We throw every penny we get at bills and hope that more comes in."

They believe they’ll lose more than 50 thousand dollars through April if the advisories continue.

"That hurts us very deeply because we actually pay rent and insurance and internet… and I can't do business right here anymore," said Dan.

Now they’re trying to sell equipment just to keep their heads above water.

The company is still running tours, but not near the St. Lucie River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells us since last Thursday, it had released a total of 17 billion gallons of water into the St. Lucie Estuary. The discharges are averaging about 3 billions a day, however that number does fluctuate.