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New system prevents water contamination
Several times this summer, there have been warnings about unsafe water quality at swimming areas.
Now, the Department of Environmental Protection is working on a system to prevent some of that contamination. It starts with the most precise technology they've ever used.
Garnier Park in Cinco Bayou got a clean bill of health in this week's water quality test. That's not always the case.
Warning signs go up when fecal bacteria counts are too high at local swimming spots.
Sandy Hill of Fort Walton Beach doesn't want to think about where those bacteria come from. She says "I don't know. I don't get in it!"
The enterococci bacteria that indicate fecal contamination come from several sources...... birds... dogs and other animals.... and humans.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection now has testing technology that's usually only found at universities. Using DNA and markers like artificial sweeteners, they can pinpoint the source of waste. Knowing if it's human or animal can help with preventive action.
Sandy Hill says "I don't know, I think it's human."
If it is, cities can check sewer systems for leaks and other problems. If it's dogs, communities can add more trash cans at dog parks, or more signs about correct disposal.
Clayton Higganbotham of Cinco Bayou says "Most of the people that come here, they clean up behind their dogs."
He believes the sewer infrastructure needs a major overhaul, and thinks maybe this system can prove it.
He says "It makes more sense. It would protect more people. People wouldn't have to worry about getting sick."
A panel looking at how the technology will translate into policy starts meeting in August.