High levels of fecal bacteria no longer reported in water off Galveston beach

GALVESTON, Texas - The latest round of lab results have canceled all Texas Beach Watch advisories in Galveston County and swimmers should not be discouraged, according to county health officials. 

On Saturday, a handful of test samples obtained from the water off of Galveston Island revealed high levels of fecal bacteria. Galveston County Health Department officials say this is not unusual.

The largest current cluster of high-level bacteria samples are located on the popular Stewart Beach.

County health officials say the bacteria is the same bacteria present in the “guts of mammals” and does not necessarily mean there are feces in the water.

Officials say the bacteria can come for a variety of sources, including sewage, septic tanks, birds, humans and others. 

The higher concentration in certain spots means those beaches receive more runoff than other sites where water flows into the Gulf, generally speaking officials say.

They say the presence of bacteria can be harmful, but generally for those with pre-existing conditions or compromised immune systems.

“The bacteria can be harmful in large amounts, typically when you have an open wound, if you drink a lot of it,” said Galveston County Health Department program manager, Lorrie Fitzsimmons-Evans. “If you wash off clean open wounds, you’re pretty safe.”

The county health department does not discourage swimming in Galveston’s beach water and says if swimmers see the orange warning flag, they are advised to move down the beach to find a spot where there is no environmental warning.

Officials say they are not aware of any illnesses this year stemming from the presence of bacteria in the water.

Bacteria levels are tested each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and bacteria levels fluctuate day to day,officials said. 

They say there is no single location where bacteria levels are consistently high.

To stay updated with Texas Beach Watch advisories, visit here. Officials say advisories typically last 48 hours. 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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