September 22 – Governor Brown Considering Law That Would Allow Public Health Officers to Get Faster Beach Water Quality Data

Coastkeeper says bill would enable San Diego County to deliver same day beach warnings.

SAN DIEGO, September 22, 2014 – Faster beach water quality test results topped the list of bills related to three important water issues passed by the California state legislature at the end of its session, according to San Diego Coastkeeper. This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law important regulations for the use of the state’s over-tapped groundwater resources, and he’s still considering a bill that would make California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags. The water quality monitoring bill, which lies close to the heart for San Diego Coastkeeper’s team, would allow public health officers the option to choose a new testing technology that produces beach water quality results in as few as two hours.

“State law mandates that public health officers monitor and issue an advisory when a beach has a high bacteria count. But the current testing process takes 18-48 hours to get results,” said Travis Pritchard, Coastkeeper’s water quality lab manager. “Essentially, the state’s current system warns beachgoers about water that was unsafe yesterday—this doesn’t protect human health today.”

If Governor Brown signs SB1395 into law, San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health has the option to use a new testing technology that measures the amount of fecal indicator bacteria DNA present in a water sample. This quicker method, called quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), produces results in two to four hours. Pritchard says that this means that the County can close a beach the same day as the sampling happens and reopen beaches a whole day earlier than is currently possible.

More than a year ago, Coastkeeper introduced this new testing method to San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, who eventually directed his staff to do a one-year pilot study to look into the feasibility of using the new technology. On the heels of that study, Supervisor Cox worked with State Senator Marty Block to introduce the statewide bill that awaits the governor’s signature.

“This is a human health initiative,” says Pritchard, who posts the County’s water quality alerts and closures on the SwimGuide App and on an interactive map on San Diego Coastkeeper’s website showing beach closures. “We’re thankful for the leadership of Supervisor Cox and Senator Block for bringing this important issue to the state legislature. We urge Governor Brown to follow suit by giving his approval to faster beach testing and reporting to protect the residents of and visitors to the Golden State.”

For more information on the testing methods, please read Pritchard’s blog on this topic. For more information on San Diego Coastkeeper, please visit localhost/sdcoastkeeper.

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SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. Visit us online at http://localhost/sdcoastkeeper.