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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Florida Healthy Beaches Program

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Contact the Public Beach Water Program

Email: Under Florida Law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your email address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing. AskEH@floridahealth.gov

Phone: 850-245-4250

Physical Address: 4052 Bald Cypress Way,
Bin A-08, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1710

Beach Water Quality, Program Overview

In 1998, five of Florida's coastal counties began monitoring for enterococci bacteria under a grant-funded pilot program.  By the beginning of 2000, 11  Florida counties were participating in the program which continued through July 2000.  To review the sampling history for those counties who participated in the original program, click here.

In August 2000, the beach water sampling program was extended to 34 of Florida's coastal counties through state legislation (Senate Bill 1412 and House Bill 2145) and funding. In addition, sampling under the new program now includes fecal coliform as well as enterococci bacteria. The rationale for selecting these two bacteria for analysis and implications of the sampling results are described below. In August 2002, the beach water sampling program began collecting water samples on a weekly basis with additional funding from U.S. EPA. The most recent results from the current program can be reviewed here.

Health Implications

Fecal coliform and enterococci are both enteric bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. If they are present in high concentrations in recreational waters and are ingested while swimming or enter the skin through a cut or sore, they may cause human disease, infections or rashes.

Fecal Coliform

Fecal coliform, which is used by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to determine water quality in fresh, brackish and marine water environments, has long been Florida’s preferred indicator organism in both fresh and saltwater. Under the new Department of Health testing program, if a fecal coliform result is observed to exceed 399 colony forming units per 100 milliliters of beach water sampled and a resampling result also exceeds this value, then a health "Warning" would be issued for the sampling site. (100 milliliters is about 7 tablespoons of water).

Florida Healthy Beaches Program Classifications

Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) has adopted Criteria for Surface Water Quality Classifications (Chapter 62-302.530, Florida Administrative Code).

Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories as of 8/2002:

Good = 0-199 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of marine water

Moderate = 200-399 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of marine water

Poor = 400 or greater fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of marine water

Sampling events resulting is a "poor" classification will normally require resampling.
Enterococci

The statewide testing program will also include testing for enterococci, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opens in new window has recommended states adopt as a saltwater quality indicator. According to studies conducted by the EPA, enterococci have a greater correlation with swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness in both marine and fresh waters than other bacterial indicator organisms, and are less likely to "die off" in saltwater. If an enterococci result were observed to exceed 103 colony forming units per 100 milliliters of beach water sampled and a resampling result also exceeds this value, then an "Advisory" would be issued for the sampling site. With the collection of weekly samples, the program will also calculate the geometric mean for enterococci.

The geometric mean is a number calculated from five weeks of beach sample results, including any resampling that has taken place. As a result, it is an indication of average water quality conditions over that time period at that particular location. EPA's increased illness risk estimates for bathers were based on the geometric mean exceeding 34 in marine waters.

Florida Healthy Beaches Program Classifications

United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended criteria.

Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories are:

Good = 0-35 Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water

Moderate = 36-104 Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water

Poor = 105 or greater Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water
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Good = 35 or fewer Enterococcus Geometric Mean.

Poor = 36 or greater Enterococcus Geometric Mean.

Sampling events resulting is a "poor" classification will normally require resampling.