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.
Enterococci are enteric bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of enteric bacteria can be 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.
The statewide testing program tests 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 104 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.
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