Officals Monitor Beaches With Healthy Beaches Program

By: Drew Steele Email
By: Drew Steele Email

Once a week, for seven months, employees with the Okaloosa County branch of the Florida health department run tests on the local beaches.

"I go out and take a sample of the water and I’m looking for enteric bacteria. I test thirteen sites in Okaloosa County" said Environmental Specialist Steven Jackson.

Under the Healthy Beaches Program, its environmental specialist Steven Jackson’s job to make sure there are no health concerns that could harm those visiting the beach.

"Well we go out with these whirly bags and take a sample eighteen inches below the surface water. That's where the good water column is usually at" said Jackson.

"We will select sites based upon their uses by the public. We want to go to parks and beach accesses where we know people are going to be bathing in the water" said Environmental County Health Section Chief Shaun May.

After collecting samples from thirteen locations Jackson brings them to a lab within six hours, where they're tested for harmful bacteria. Shaun May says public awareness is an important part of the testing process.

"It's an opportunity for us to interact with the public. To share pertinent and timely health information with them so that they can make informed decisions for them and their families" said May.

If they detect harmful bacteria, health officials don't have the authority to close a beach.
But they can issue a no swimming notice to beachgoers.

8195 Front Beach Road Panama City Beach, FL 32407 Station: 850-234-7777 News: 850-230-5221 Fax: 850-233-6647
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