By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Social media has been abuzz lately with people wondering if the waters surrounding South Padre Island are safe. Numerous reports have been published in recent weeks detailing high bacteria counts and beachgoers developing illnesses as a result in coastal waters along Galveston and elsewhere.
The issue arose after a record-breaking wet winter and spring led to water from the Hill Country, Houston and the surrounding areas running off untreated into the Gulf.
Officials in the Rio Grande Valley, however, are assuring the public that Valley beaches are safe.
“We haven’t had high results (of bacteria)” said Bridget Goza, senior program manager at the UT – Pan American Coastal Studies Laboratory on South Padre Island Tuesday.
The laboratory tests water weekly at 26 different locations across South Padre Island and Boca Chica beach, Goza said. “Typically, we have fairly low levels of bacteria,” she said. Goza said the lab tests for a bacteria commonly found in animal feces. “We’re just testing that one type of bacteria,” she said, explaining that its presence often signals the presence of other harmful bacteria as well.
She encouraged the public to examine water quality results for themselves online at www.TexasBeachWatch.com.
County Extension Agent Tony Reisinger, of Texas Sea Grant, echoed Goza’s assurances. He explained how the Valley’s geography and local currents have played a role in keeping our waters clean. “The river (Rio Grande) captures a lot of run-off further upstream and that’s held in resevoirs,” he said. “We only have two outlets to our beaches in Cameron County,” he continued, speaking the river and the Brazos-Santiago Pass.
The currents also have an impact. The Littoral Current, Reisinger said, pushes seawater from south to north, meaning that any run-off from areas north of the Valley do not affect this area.
“We’re fortunate and I think we’ve had healthy beaches,” he said.
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