An alarming shitty water dilemma has emerged from a recent study by Environment America.The report reveals that in 2022, a staggering 90% of Texan beaches faced a day of dangerous fecal contamination, exceeding the national average. This data is crucial for summer beachgoers. South Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Galveston, and other Gulf Coast areas.
The study by Environment America warns that exposure to such contamination could result in severe ailments such as ear infections and gastrointestinal distress. Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas, talked to Texas Standard about the essentials beachgoers need to keep in mind before their next sojourn.
The frequency of testing the water quality at these beaches, mandated by the Clean Water Act, varies across the state. The collected data is reported to the federal government, by whom the assessment of fecal contamination levels is conducted. Annually, Environment America along with respective state agencies compile this data into a comprehensive national report. Unfortunately, 2022 marked a low point for Texas.
“In contrast to other regions, Texas struggled. 90% of our beaches reported at least one day of unsafe fecal bacteria. About eight beaches had a quarter of the time with unsafe levels, while one had more than half the time displaying potential harmful levels of bacteria,” explained Metzger.
The surge in bacteria levels is often attributed to inadequate sewage systems and excessive rainfall. Enterococcus, or fecal bacteria, is a naturally occurring inhabitant in the intestines of humans and animals, evident in their waste. However, outdated sewer systems in cities, coupled with heavy rainfall, can result in bacteria-laden sewage spilling into water bodies.
“Aging pipes can leak raw sewage or become overwhelmed with excessive rain, leading to sewage infiltration into our creeks, bayous, and ultimately our beach waters,” detailed Metzger.
But not all Texas beaches are affected. South Texas, renowned for its unspoiled beaches, has proven to be among the cleanest in the country. Metzger confirmed, “Several of our beaches, especially in the South Padre Island and South Texas region, have not reported a single violation day.”
Areas with larger populations and antiquated sewage systems are more likely to encounter bacterial issues. For instance, Cole Park in Corpus recorded hazardous contamination on over half the testing days, and beaches on the state’s northern end also showed higher bacterial incidences. Metzger pointed out, “Upper areas, particularly Corpus Christi and Galveston, face significant problems.”
What steps are being taken to combat this challenge?
Following federal consent decrees, Corpus Christi, Houston, and Tyler have been directed by the federal government to invest $1 billion in improving wastewater infrastructure to curb sewage overflows. Texas will also benefit from $80 million in federal funding to fortify its wastewater infrastructure. Despite this being a historic victory, Metzger expresses concerns about the sufficiency of these measures.
Metzger hopes for significant progress in Texas in the upcoming years but asserts that the existing investment is insufficient. “Texas needs billions of dollars to revamp the aging and deteriorating wastewater infrastructure. A major investment is required for our waterways to be cleansed.”
In the interim, before planning a visit to any Texas beach, it’s advisable to check the Beach Watch website for updates on a beach’s bacterial count. This is particularly crucial for infants and immunocompromised individuals. As visible signs of contamination are scarce, resorting to Beach Watch is the safest option. Moreover, bacterial contamination tends to be higher post-heavy rains, so delaying a beach trip by a few days might be a wise move.
Be safe out there and follow for more at Right Celebrity!