No advisories for local waters

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Romi White

Following an erroneous report by an Georgia television station about water advisories at Florida Panhandle beaches, local tourism officials prompted the Florida Department of Health’s Escambia County office to issue a statement affirming there are no advisories for local waters.

“Escambia County currently does not have any advisories issued for local marine waters. This week’s and last week’s sampling did not indicate that Enterococci bacteria was at levels that required the issuance of an advisory,” stated Escambia Environmental Health Director, Robert Merritt.

Erin Jeffreys, a DOH spokeswoman, said the department had received “a lot of calls” after Glen Burns, Chief Meteorologist with Atlanta’s WSB-TV 2, mistakenly reported that eight Panhandle beaches had “no swim” advisories linked to “flesh-eating” bacteria.

“I apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” Burns posted June 29 on his Facebook page.

Although the Florida Department of Health recently issued “no swim” advisories for two beaches in Walton County and health advisories for six in Okaloosa County, those alerts were not related to vibro vulnificus, a “flesh-eating” bacteria.

According to DOH, no vibrio vulnificus, or flesh-eating bacteria, has been observed in Okaloosa County this year and the six beaches in Okaloosa County do not have “no swim” advisories but rather health advisories — due to high levels of enterococci bacteria, which normally inhabits the intenstinal tract of humans and animals.

Those six beaches are: Garnier’s Park, Poquito Park, Rocky Bayou State Park, East Pass, Clement E. Taylor Park and Hendeson Beach.

The “no swim” advisories in Walton County were issued for County Park (Miramar) Beach and Blue Mountain Beach and also related to high levels of enterococci.

In a June 29 statement DOH said enterococci bacteria may cause human disease, infections, or rashes, but for the vast majority of people, the risk of serious illness is minimal. An otherwise healthy person may have no problems with contact with the water of a beach that is under advisory.”

The statement also noted people may experience minor inflammation of a cut, a mild sore throat or mild diarrhea after exposure to water from a beach under a health advisory. “The greatest risk is for very young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems since their ability to fight off infection is limited by age or disease,” stated the release.

Per Okaloosa County Health Department Public Information Officer Ryan Mims, the following water quality classifications are used by DOH and are based upon the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standard for enterococci:

GOOD: 0-35 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 milliliters (mL) of marine water

MODERATE: 36-70 CFU per 100 mL of marine water

POOR: greater than 70 CFU per 100 mL of marine water

Following are the recent readings for the beaches in Okaloosa County:

Site Name City Enterococci Water Quality Colony Forming Units
SP-2 Garniers Park Ft. Walton Beach Fail Poor 200
SP-5 Poquito Park Shalimar Fail Poor 304
SP-7 East Pass Okaloosa Island Fail Poor 84
SP-9 Henderson Beach Destin Fail Poor 216
SP-10 Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park Niceville Fail Poor 412
SP-14 Clement E Taylor Park Destin Fail Poor 84