Fecal coliform testing bill glides through initial committee

Beach closures would be possible for some locations.

Animal waste or human waste, it doesn’t much matter when it’s present in high enough amounts in coastal waters to become a health issue.

Presently, the state directs that testing occurs, from which advisories are issued to discourage people from getting in the water if the tests come back with unsatisfactory readings. 

Legislation heard in the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee would take steps to expand the program to include public bathing areas, and beach closure requirements.

“It requires, rather than authorizes, the Department of Health (DOH) to sample and report the contaminated public beaches and waters in a timely manner,” Highland Beach Republican Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman said regarding HB 177.

“Currently, the Florida state statutes only authorize this, and so do not require regular recording. It also requires notifying municipalities affected, installing signage in a timely manner, and working with (the Department of Environmental Protection), (the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) and other entities to close beaches as needed.”

DOH monitors 402 sites statewide through biweekly sampling. Closures would occur at places that don’t meet the DOH standards and if that closure is necessary to protect the public. 

Those closures would remain in effect until the water quality is restored and DOH removes any related health advisories issued. Appropriate signage would go at conspicuous sites by affected areas, if the water tested doesn’t meet the standard.

“Coliforms and enterococci are bacteria that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals — humans, pets, farm animals, and wildlife,” the House staff analysis explains. “Fecal coliform bacteria are a kind of coliform associated with human or animal wastes. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is part of the group of fecal coliforms.”

Bacteria in the presence of fecal matter in water can make swimmers sick and make people ill if they eat fish or shellfish from contaminated water.

“Sources of fecal indicator bacteria include,” according to the analysis, “wastewater treatment plant effluent, leaking septic systems, stormwater runoff, sewage discharged or dumped from recreational boats, domestic animal and wildlife waste, improper land application of manure or sewage, and runoff from manure storage areas, pastures, rangelands, and feedlots.”

The DOH would be required to keep the data in a public statewide interagency database, with data published within five days of testing.

“It’s just common sense that people should be made aware,” Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Kelly Skidmore said. “We should be testing regularly, routinely, and letting folks know that the waterway is safe.

“The next step … is making sure that those waterways are safe, and we’re doing everything we can.”

HB 177 moves on to the Health Care Appropriations Committee.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe

One comment

  • Bill McFecal Matter McSewer

    April 3, 2023 at 6:03 pm

    Conservatives are fecal matter. Need more Fentanyl sales to conservatives.. especially in The Villages.

Comments are closed.


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