Suncoast Waterkeeper does its own bacteria monitoring with public support
SCWK provides information on water quality so citizens in the Manatee and Sarasota area can make educated decisions on recreational use and policies.
The Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches program tests bacteria levels weekly at Gulf Coast beaches. But that means many popular shoreside places, particularly in local bays, are not regularly monitored for the presence of harmful bacteria.
To keep our community safe, Suncoast Waterkeeper collects weekly samples of enterococci bacteria at 11 locations on the Suncoast and posts its results on this page, on the SWIM Guide, and social media. Suncoast Waterkeeper uses the same standard operating procedures and National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Certified lab as local government agencies.
We also show the results in the same four categories used by the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches Program.
Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories are:
Good = 0-35 Enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of tidal water
Moderate = 36-70 Enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of tidal water
Poor = 71 or greater Enterococci bacteria per 100 milliliters of tidal water
We email local and state government agencies weekly with the results. However, no actions to warn, trace or plan have been taken to address the problems we have found. The map below shows where we sample and up-to-date results about the level of bacteria found in each water sample. Clicking on a red or green symbol will present details of the monitoring results.
How we Monitor
SCWK monitors bacteria levels biweekly at 11 sites used recreationally but not tested by the government. We collect these samples at the same locations each week and process the samples at Benchmark EnviroAnalytical Inc. This long-term monitoring project has been possible only because of generous grant funding and support from the Mote Scientific Foundation, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership, and individual citizens like you.
These samples and lab examinations focus on the amount of the harmful bacteria, Enterococci, associated with fecal pollution from animals, including humans in the water.
Lab processes take approximately 48 hours to complete. Data collection is typically done on Tuesdays and results are posted by Friday. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for weekly updates.
The Swim Guide
Details of our latest water-quality information also are displayed in the Suncoast Waterkeeper Swim Guide, which you can access by clicking on the map at right.
What is Enterococci and why do we track it?
Enterococci normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of enteric bacteria can indicate fecal pollution, which can come from stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. If these bacteria 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 illness or infections.
According to studies conducted by the EPA, enterococci have a greater correlation with swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness in marine and fresh waters than other bacterial indicator organisms and are less likely to "die off" in saltwater. If an enterococci result exceeds 70 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of marine water sampled, then an "Advisory" should be issued for the sampling site.
Suncoast Waterkeeper will continue to monitor sites with consistently poor test results and follow up by notifying appropriate local officials. See the SCWK Sick of Sewage Campaign and success stories.