A new rapid method for testing beach water quality that will protect health by reducing the time for detecting bacterial contamination from 24 hours to just two. In tests done at two Great Lakes beaches, researchers verified that the more rapid method accurately predicts possible adverse health effects from bacterial contamination. The results of the study will help support new federal criteria and limits for water quality indicators in recreational waters.
A paper published in the January 2006 issue of "Environmental Health Perspectives," presents some of the first findings of the National Epidemiological and Environmental Assessment of Recreational (NEEAR) Water Study. NEEAR is a multi-year research project being conducted by EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first phase of the project assessed the new method in the Great Lakes. The next phase will collect and analyze similar data at ocean beaches.
The research used DNA analysis to quantify two types of bacteria, enterococci and bacteroides, in the water at two beaches on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. The results of the water quality tests were then correlated to health surveys of beach-goers who swam at the beaches, by interviewing beach goers as they left the beach, and again by telephone 10 to 12 days after their beach visit.