CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Summer is here and one of South Texas residents' favorite pastimes is heading to the beach.
While our Island beaches are usually great for swimming, areas off of Ocean Drive are some of the worst for swimming due to bacteria in the water, the Safe for Swimming report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center shows.
But Scott Cross with Nueces County Coastal Parks says there may be spikes in bacteria after heavy rainfall.
"It can be alarming. And these kinds of things when they come out. If they're not putting the right perspective, they can have a real ripple effect."
According to the report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, waters by Ropes and Coal Parks are the least safe for swimming in Texas, due to the amount of bacteria.
"Those are all just Bayside parks," Cross said. "I'm not even aware that they even have beaches on them that are even accessible. I think one does have a pier, but I've never heard of anybody trying to swim down there."
The amount of bacteria found in bodies of water, depends on rainfall and the storm drainage system that’s established in the City of Corpus Christi.
One resource you can use is TexasBeachWatch.com. There you can see green, yellow and red dots depending on the severity of bacteria count and water quality. It is important to remember that not all bacteria is bad bacteria.
Scott Cross believes educating the public on how the storm drainage system is routed can be beneficial for the community.
"If we can find better ways to educate people on their ecological address, where do you live in relationship to the tributary district or the river that feeds into our oceans? What can we do to improve that water quality before it gets to its final destination? That's a big deal."
To assess beach safety, the group examined whether fecal indicator bacteria levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most protective “Beach Action Value,” which is associated with an estimated illness rate of 32 out of every 1,000 swimmers. Ropes Park in Corpus Christi had bacteria levels above this safety threshold on 70 percent of days tested last year. It is listed as the most unsafe area for swimming due to bacteria in Texas.
Cole Park, Emerald Beach, and Corpus Christi Marina were all found potentially unsafe over 50 percent of the time.
Other areas in Nueces County with unsafe bacteria levels were Poenisch Park (#5), Park Road 22 (#7) and Port Aransas (#9).
“Even as Texans are trying to escape record heat at the beach this 4th of July, pollution is still plaguing too many of the places where we swim," said Michal Lewis of the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. "Now is the time to fix our water infrastructure and stop the flow of pathogens to our beaches.”
Polluted runoff and sewage overflows are common sources of contamination that can put swimmers’ health at risk and lead authorities to close beaches or issue health advisories. Scientists estimate 57 million instances of people getting sick each year in the U.S. from swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds. This includes cases of acute gastrointestinal illness.
The report recommends major investments to prevent sewage overflows and runoff pollution.
If you plan to head to the beach, you can check daily bacteria levels at the Texas Beach Watch website.
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