[update: advisory lifted]
Local health officials are advising people to stay out of the waters along Quietwater Beach after sampling over the past week revealed high levels of bacteria.
Specifically, the tests showed levels of enterococci that exceed the state’s threshold for issuing a health advisory. According to the Escambia County Health Department, enterococci is an enteric bacteria that inhabits the intestinal tracts of animals and humans.
“It’s an indicator bacteria,” explained Robert Merritt, environmental health director with Escambia County Health Department.
Merritt said that when officials detect high levels of enterococci in the water it means that there are also potentially other more harmful types of bacteria present. The other types of bacteria potentially present, which no tests are conducted for, include varieties that could lead to gastronomical and skin rash-related issues.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection defines high levels of enterococci as being at or above 71CFU (Colony Forming Units) per 100 milliliters. Below 35 CFU/100ml is considered good.
The testing done at Quietwater Beach — performed along the pier at the boardwalk — showed levels above 71 CFU/100 ml first on Aug. 2 and then again on Aug. 4. The health advisory was issued today (Aug. 5) following the two prescribed tests.
While other local waterways, such as area bayous, routinely demand a health advisory, Merritt said such an issue at Quietwater Beach is not typical. According to testing records, Quietwater has only tested poorly four times since March of 2014; two of those times were this past week.
Merritt said he did not know what to attribute the results to, but that recent rains could have caused high amounts of enterococci-rich stormwater to flood the waters.
Currently, health advisory signs have been posted at Quietwater Beach. Additional testing will be conducted Monday.