Shell Point Beach receives 'poor' bacteria rating in latest FDOH sampling

Shell Point Beach receives 'poor' bacteria rating in latest FDOH sampling
Shell Point Beach receives 'poor' bacteria rating in latest FDOH sampling
Posted at 2:40 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 14:46:14-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) - Tests in Shell Point Beach report bacteria in the water that could cause health concerns. 

To make sure water is safe for us to swim in, the Florida Department of Health tests the quality of coastal waters weekly.

One place that didn't pass the test was Shell Point Beach in Crawfordville.

That's because on Aug. 20, scientist found something unusual in the Gulf. 

"Enterococcus is a bacteria that only lives in warm-blooded creatures. So it could be in a raccoon, a possum, or a person," said Sean McGlynn, Principal Investigator with McGlynn Labs Inc. "And usually it indicates sewage."  

So how does this end up in coastal waters? McGlynn and someone who does the exact same test as the state, says septic tanks are commonly the culprit and heavy rain just makes it worse. 

"Septic tanks will go under water and be inundated and they will flush and their contents will come out and run off into the stormwater," said McGlynn. "And stormwater ponds typically have high bacteria in them. That's why there's no swimming or fishing in them." 

According to doctors if you swim in water that has this type of bacteria in it, you can get sick. 

"Flu-like symptoms, especially fever, chills, body aches you need to have yourself checked, make sure you're not developing some type of sepsis, especially if you've been in those areas and you have open wounds or open sores," said Lucinda Rosebush, Sepsis Coordinator at Capital Regional Medical Center. 

Rosebush says sepsis is considered a medical emergency and if you have signs pointing to it, you should see your doctor immediately.   

The good news, the bacteria typically only survives a few days outside of a human or animal body.

McGlynn says if the rains hold off, the water samples should improve in the next day or two.

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) - The Florida Department of Health says Wakulla County's Shell Point Beach has tested positive for high levels of a bacteria that causes meningitis and other serious infections. 

According to FDOH, Shell Point Beach got a 'poor' bacteria rating in its last beach sample due to the bacteria Enterococcus. The beach was recently reopened in May 2018 after a county restoration project. 

The latest sample was collected on Monday. Officials say a poor rating is given when there is 70.5 or greater Enterococci per 100 milliliters of marine water. 

Enterococcus can be found in your intestines and genital track, but can also be found in the environment. FDOH says 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.

According to the book Enterococcal Disease, Epidemiology, and Implications for Treatment, enterococci can cause of variety of infections, most commonly urinary tract infections. 

However, enterococci can also cause serious infections like bacteremia, which is caused by bacteria in the blood and endocarditis, which is an infection of the inner surface of the heart. Other infections less commonly or rarely seen caused by enterococci include meningitis, septic arthritis, and pneumonia. 

Enterococci can also develop resistance to the antibiotic its most commonly treated with, vancomycin, making it difficult to get rid of and sometimes leading to fatality.

All Florida beaches are tested regularly for enterococci, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended states adopt as a saltwater quality indicator.

An advisory has not yet been issued. According to FDOH, a poor rating may result in a resampling to confirm the conditions. If a resampling is again found to be poor, then an advisory would be issued for the sampling site. 

Records show Shell Point received five poor ratings in 2017 and one other poor rating in March 2018. About a month before Monday's sampling, the beach received a 'good' rating.  

We are reaching out to officials for more information about the rating system and what that means for beachgoers.