Liquid mystery: Fluctuating water quality tests stump experts

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 03:03 PM.

When sampled, water samples are graded by the amount of enteroccocci ­­­— or bacteria — per 100 ml of marine water. Anywhere from 0-35 is considered good, 36-104 is moderate and poor is 105 and greater.

In the final tests of the year, Grayton, Holly Street and Eastern Lake Beach were all given failing grades. FDOH re-sampled the water shortly after they released the poor grades, and those same beaches were given "good" grades.

  Testing the waters

Blaine Dargavell, a Santa Rosa Beach resident and member of the South Walton Community Council (SWCC), said he is surprised to find that DEP hasn't provided feedback. As a former civil engineer in Kentucky , Dargavell has a few hypotheses.

"When sewer lines get inundated by rain water, the sanitary systems become overcharged," he said. "Livestock, cats and dogs and wild animals — all of their waste gets washed out. Those would be the likely places bacteria will come from. It has to come from somewhere."

Weekly testing is a start, said Dargavell, but may not help the county lead to any conclusions.

"Once the water is analyzed, it goes someplace else," he explained. "One week Grayton is bad and Blue Mountain is good. Ten minutes later and that bacteria has already drifted. It's good to know, but the info isn't particularly useful. You want to know where the bad water is going or you may be avoiding the wrong area."

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