Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Are Puerto Rican Beaches Safe For Swimming?

Puerto Rico is following a Federal Mandate to monitor beaches for increased levels of bacteria, and provide results to the public.  These are the public beaches around the island that are being monitored and reported.  This post provides a sample of what you can find on the website, and the explanation below was translated using Google Translate.  You can find this, and much more information by clicking the map!

Click on the map to go to the current readings on JCA's Website

What is the Beach Monitoring and Public Notification Program?

Under the Federal "Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act" of 2000, the Water Quality Area of ​​the Environmental Quality Board (JCA) implemented the Beach Monitoring and Public Notification Program. The purpose of this program is that bathers reduce the risk of developing diseases when they are exposed to using a beach that is under notice of bacteriological contamination.

What indicator is used?

The parameter used to evaluate the quality of water on beaches in bacteriological terms is enterococci. This is an indicator of the possible existence of pathogens in water. Pathogens are microorganisms that cause diseases and live in the large intestine of warm-blooded beings. The most common diseases caused by pathogens, by bathing in waters contaminated by feces, are infections of the eyes, ears, skin, diseases of the respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract.

The Enterococcal parameter exceeds the "Beach Action Value" applicable when:

• The result of the bacteriological analysis is greater than 70 colonies per 100 milliliters of water (colonies / 100mL).

What does the map reflect?

The beaches that appear on the map with green flag are in compliance with the "Beach Action Value" of enterococci and its use is recommended for bathers. However, if a beach has a yellow flag it means that it has exceeded the "Beach Action Value" of 70 col / 100 / mL and its use is not recommended for immersion (primary contact).

What could happen if a bather uses a beach with a yellow flag?

The beach with yellow flag is not recommended for primary contact, because there is the possibility that there are pathogenic organisms that can cause diseases in the skin, eyes, nose, throat and gastrointestinal system.

How long will this map be valid?

The results of the samplings reflected in the map will remain until the next notification.

What staff of the JCA works to provide this useful tool for the country?

The effort to create the map for the benefit of citizens and bathers arises in the Water Quality Area (ACA) of the JCA. Initially the personnel of the Water Sampling Division mobilized to 35 beaches (designated as beaches by the PR Planning Board) to take the water samples. Said samples are delivered to the Environmental Investigation Laboratory of Puerto Rico where the incubation and analysis process is carried out. Once the results are ready, the Laboratory sends them to the Division of Plans and Special Projects (DPPE) of the ACA and to the Office of Control and Quality Assurance of the JCA (OCCC). Once the OCCC verifies the certainty of the quality of the results, the DPPE carries out the evaluation of the water quality of the beaches and sends the information to the Press Office, the Office of Systems and Regional Offices of the JCA. The Information Systems Office of the public agency provides the data and the corresponding public notification on the agency's website, at the same time the Agency's Communications and Education Manager issues a press release to the media (television, radio and written press) indicating if the beaches are suitable for bathers. The DPPE sends the information of the evaluation of the quality of the water of the beaches and the results of the samplings to the administrators of the beaches. Among the administrators are; agencies such as the National Parks Company of PR, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Municipalities and private entities such as Hotels, Beach Apartments, among others.

What other recommendations does the JCA offer regarding the use of beaches in the country?

It is recommended that bathers take into consideration that after continuous rain events should not have contact with bodies of water until twenty-four (24) hours after they have finished, since they are more likely to acquire infectious diseases caused by these pathogenic organisms. It is also necessary to point out that bathers must move away from the mouths of the bodies of water and the pipes used for the discharge of rainwater to the beach.
We urge citizens to follow our recommendation to avoid immersion in beaches that exceed the parameters of bacteriology and therefore have a yellow flag. We must point out that the Environmental Quality Board issues this notification to the country as a highly useful public service. It is the beach managers who, once notified, have to their credit how they physically notify the public about the information generated by our agency.

Click here to open a PDF in English where you can read about the Performance Criteria.

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