Dirty Beaches a Growing Problem in Florida

Environmentalists and beachgoers alike think the state should do more to keep the water clean.

The water might have looked beautiful at a Wakulla County beach, but just up the road 73 percent of the samples taken by the state last year came back with higher than allowable bacteria levels.

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council says an average of nearly 10 beaches a day were closed or had posted health advisories somewhere in Florida last year because of high bacteria levels.

Amy Allbaugh is angry the state doesn’t do more.

She says, "Especially in the summertime, everybody’s always out here, especially on the weekends, so the water has to be clean, and if they’re not going to keep up with it, then were are all the tax dollars going?"

But state environmental officials will tell you they have stepped up water quality standards, and Florida has also gotten tougher on polluters.

Anthony Deluise with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says, "In addition to the billions we’ve spent over the last seven years to upgrade storm water treatment facilities, improve drinking water facilities and clean up storm water pollution, the department’s enforcement record has jumped 30 percent under the governor’s leadership."

And the national report does have some good news. More than one out of three Florida beaches had a clean bill of health last year.

Environmental officials blame many of the health advisories last year on hurricanes and red tide. On the good news front, Florida beaches rank highly compared to beaches in other states.

Only four percent of Florida beaches exceeded national bacteria standards, which are lower than state standards. Locally, Wakulla, Taylor and Franklin County beaches rank among some of the worst in the state.

In fact, six of the 10 worst beaches are in our area and exceed the state's bacteria standards. For example, in regular testing, Hagan's cove in Taylor County exceeded those standards 83 percent of the time.