Wednesday, July 14, 2010

St. Augustine Record: Ponte Vedra Beach and other creeks to be tested for fecal coliform pollution, cleanup may be required

PVB, other St. Johns County creeks to be tested
By Jeanette Bradley
Created 2010-07-14 06:35

With evidence looming that creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway are polluted, Beaches cities are gradually signing on to a state program to test the water and eventually clean it up.

And state officials plan to eventually begin testing tributaries in Ponte Vedra Beach and elsewhere in St. Johns County, to see if cleanups are necessary there.

The long-term Department of Environmental Protection's Basin Management Action Plan addresses fecal coliform pollution in 15 tributaries near the coast that flow into the Intracoastal and eventually the St. Johns River.

Exposure to fecal bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Children and people with weak immune systems are at higher risk of danger from the bacteria. High levels of bacteria can also deplete the St. Johns River of oxygen as pollutants eventually run from the tributaries into that waterway.

The Ponte Vedra Beach waterways are part of a planning area called the Tolomato River unit, which also encompasses the Intracoastal Waterway. But that's separate from the Duval County project.

With the Duval County work under way, preliminary information is being gathered about St. Johns County and Ponte Vedra Beach.

"They've not yet developed an action plan for those water bodies as they have in Duval," said Jodi Conway, spokeswoman for DEP's Northeast Florida district. "They're following a cycle approach that divides it up."

"DEP scientists are doing water quality sampling in several of these [Ponte Vedra] waterways and creeks this year," said Conway. "We're currently out there doing sampling right now. The results of this sampling will be analyzed next year to determine if these water bodies need additional assistance under this program."

The state will also study pollutants in other areas of the state over the next few years.

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