Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava sponsored the item with the intent to better inform the public, with greater precision and with quicker feedback, when our waterways and beaches are unsafe due to fecal contamination.
The resolution directs the County to investigate alternative water testing methods that could produce faster results for fecal indicator bacteria. The legislation also requests that the County engage in the use of DNA screening technology to identify the source of the bacteria – be it wildlife, domestic pets, or human origin – and report the results of the County’s experience to the Board.
The resolution, in line with the County’s Open Data Policy championed by Commissioner Levine Cava, also establishes County requirements to make the volumes of water quality data collected over decades easily available to the public and to researchers. And finally, the legislation urges the State Department of Health – the Agency tasked with monitoring our beaches for contamination - to also embrace DNA and other testing methods to better pinpoint the cause of contamination and publish water testing results online for public access.
“The County needs to take the lead in the use of advanced technologies that will help identify the sources and trace the causes of pollution in our Bay,” said Commissioner Levine Cava. “We need to make sure the public is informed as quickly as possible, and then find and fix the problems. By doing these things and by being open and transparent with all of the data we have available, my hope is that we will be able to find solutions to reverse the downward trend for Biscayne Bay and further protect our economy from the shocks caused by beach closures.”
While the Florida Department of Health is responsible for testing marine beach waters for the presence of fecal bacteria, the County conducts testing of Biscayne Bay, canals and other bodies of water. The State tests beach waters once per week, and it can take two days before they issue a swimming advisory for a particular site.