Up to 18 percent of water tests fail quality standards in USA

May 21, 2013 | Environment
Blue water: keep it clear and clean | Photo: Surfrider/GeoffGlenn.com

Surfrider Foundation's Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) announced that 18 percent of the annual water tests measured high bacterial levels, above the national water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2012, the Blue Water Task Force collected 2,740 water samples to be analyzed by 23 water testing labs of the Surfrider Foundation network.

Of all water tests, 70 percent indicated low bacteria levels, 12 percent indicated medium bacteria levels and 18 percent measured high bacterial levels above the national water quality standards set by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters.

These results are very similar to those reported last year, which were 70 percent, 9 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Samples analyzed by the San Clemente High School in Southern California had the highest bacteria rate of all the BWTF labs in 2012. At 42 percent, their high bacteria rate nearly doubled from the previous year's rate of 20 percent.

Nearly half of their 50 samples that failed to meet health standards in 2012 came from Poche Beach. Poche is one of the most consistently polluted beaches in Southern California and has both a channelized creek and a stagnant pond that likely contribute to the pollution.

Thirty-four percent of Valencia High School's 61 water samples showed high bacteria levels. A participant in the Newport Beach Chapter's Teach and Test program, Valencia HS tests exclusively in freshwater lakes in the area surrounding their school.

Kauai had a high bacteria rate of 39 percent, up from 31 percent in 2011. Kaua'i tests 22 surf breaks and freshwater streams on a monthly basis. Eighty percent of their high bacteria counts came from streams and the remaining 20 percent from the surf zone.

Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor High Schools had high bacteria rates of 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Both schools are part of the Newport Beach Chapter's Teach and Test Program, and they both also sample in similar locations in the estuaries of Newport Bay and at beaches close to where the Bay and the Santa Ana River empty out into the ocean.

The San Mateo County Chapter, whose high bacteria rate was 24 percent, collects water samples at seven local beaches, however only two of those sites contributed 88 percent of the samples with high bacteria counts. One is San Vicente Creek and the other one is Capistrano Beach.