Sewage contamination of beach waters is not a new phenomenon
Sewage contamination of beach waters is not a new phenomenon. It has always been a with the expansion of urban cities towards coastal beaches. Sewage and especially after a heavy downpour have been identified as the major contaminants. While urban run-offs can be minimized with proper sanitation in the respective towns and cities, sewage contamination is attributed to downright negligence in the construction and maintenance process or just sheer ignorance of the guilty parties. Sewage is usually carried by a network of pipes to the sewage treatment plants. Occasionally, these pipes do leak or just burst either due to overcapacity or damage by storms. The leaking effluent can flow directly into the ocean waters or may be carried by underground streams and other . (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007).
Points of Contamination
This effluent is highly hazardous and contains bacteria and pathogens. These pathogens are ingested by humans and animals in a variety of ways when they come into contact with sewage-contaminated water. Ingestion can occur orally when a swimmer or surfer unintentionally gulps the ocean water. Also, eating contaminated seafood that wasnt properly cooked can expose one to these pathogens. Dermal contamination occurs when one has some open wounds on his skin and the contaminated water seeps through. In aerosol, one inhales water droplets such as those from breaking waves.(Ambient Student, 2009).
The most common type of illness due to contaminated ocean water is gastroenteritis infections. The mode of exposure is usually oral but isolated cases of aerosol have been reported. Gastroenteritis diseases affect the gastrointestinal tract. The patient suffers from bouts of vomiting, stomachaches, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, there is a fever and the patient is massively dehydrated. Cases of hepatitis disease have also been reported whereby the patient has the symptoms mentioned above plus yellowish or jaundiced skin. Looking at dermal contamination, the patient suffers from an itchy rash and as the situation worsens, he can develop swollen red patches that secrete a thick yellowish discharge.(Ambient Student, 2009) Other people do develop eye and ear irritations but they usually ignore them hoping that the irritations will simply disappear. (Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services, 2007).
Monitoring and Managing Beach waters
The safety of beach waters can only be confirmed by taking regular water samples and analyzing them for pathogens. Through strict regulations in the handling of sewage waste and other urban sanitary requirements, the amount of discharge reaching the beach waters can be massively reduced. Furthermore, beachgoers can be warned when the ocean is highly contaminated to minimize the risk of infection. Quite a several beaches around the country have been able to implement these strategies and we will use the in Orange County as an example. In the last 40 years, they have been sampling the ocean waters of Orange County for bacteria and other disease-causing organisms. The results are analyzed and if the contamination levels are too high, signs are placed where the samples were taken to warn the swimmers and surfers. They collect close to 150 samples in the ocean, surrounding rivers and storm drains that border the beaches. The time, date, weather conditions and location of the collection are also recorded.(Ocbeachinfo.com, 2009) The samples are taken at least weekly to five times per week along the Orange County coastline. (Ocbeachinfo.com, 2009).
If contamination is detected at a specific location, the frequency of sampling increases at that particular area until the source of contamination is identified. After analysis of the bacterial levels in the samples which are done daily, the County has come up with a scale to classify the status of the ocean waters. This scale is written in simple language so that the public can understand it. Open means the bacterial levels are below the safety standards. Closed means the ocean water has been polluted by sewage discharge and beachgoers should not at any moment come into contact with the ocean water. Warning means bacterial contamination is above the authorized levels and beachgoers should avoid coming into contact with the water 150 feet on either side of the sign. Advisory means stormwater run-off after a rainstorm makes the coastal waters unsuitable for swimming for at least 72 hours.(Ocbeachinfo.com, 2009).