Sands' End?

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Brian Cauley loves to fish at Alligator Point Beach, but he was shocked to hear this beach fails EPA standards almost one third of the time, making it one of the dirtiest beaches in the state.

Brian says, “It’s sad. It’s sad. It’s sad anytime to hear the environment is impaired, you know.”

This beach is just one included in a report by the Clean Water Network which looks at EPA tests at Florida counties. Every coastal county in Florida saw beach closings last year. In fact, there were more than 3,345 closings and health advisory days in 2004. That’s less than the year before, but Linda Young of Clean Water Network says it doesn’t put much faith in the numbers.

You can’t tell by looking if the water is clean. County health departments test the water once a week or so, but if the water exceeds EPA standards for bacteria, they don’t have to close the beach for a few days. Young says that needs to change.

Linda Young says, “When a test is taken and a violation is found, it should be closed immediately.”

Young says the underlying problems are more people, overdevelopment and an aging infrastructure that results in sewage spills and storm water runoff, so the next time you want to cool off during the dog days of summer, remember the beach may not be your safest solution.

In our area, four beaches in Franklin County were closed a total of 291 days last year. Four beaches in Taylor County were closed for 267 days in 2004, and three beaches in Wakulla County were closed a total of 149 days last year, all because of high bacteria counts.