SAN DIEGO––San Diego Coastkeeper, an organization that protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters, thanks San Diego County Board of Supervisors for voting today in favor of pilot testing faster beach water quality testing. If proven successful in San Diego County, the new rapid detection methods could produce results in as few as four hours, when the current turnaround takes 24 – 48 hours.
“We see two significant improvements that will come from this—we can get people out of the water faster when it’s unsafe and return them sooner when it becomes safe,” said Coastkeeper Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski. “With the county’s large number of recreational water users and our vibrant tourism economy, these tests are critical to protect our health and economy.”
Called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), the new method removes the culturing process necessary in the current testing, which can take up to 48 hours. In as few as four hours, the qPCR method produces results showing the levels of harmful bacteria present in the water.
According to an agenda item memorandum put forward to the full council by Chairman Greg Cox, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project performed a successful pilot project study in Orange County to test the new method and determine if it could work along the state’s diverse coastline. The County’s yearlong localized study would begin April 1, 2013, to evaluate when and where the County’s Department of Environmental Health could effectively and efficiently measure the county’s beach water quality. According to Cox, the total study would cost $59,000.
Currently, the Department of Environmental Health tests 80 county beaches using the culture-based method.