After several days of high bacteria counts along the Galveston coast, county officials are pleased to report that levels are returning to normal as the island preps for Labor Day vacationers.
This summer, just the word "bacteria" is enough to make any beach-goer want to skip the waves and build a sand castle. In June, a man died from flesh-eating bacteria along the Gulf in Louisiana. And though not technically bacteria, a rare brain-eating amoeba took the life of a 12-year-old boy in south Florida.
Earlier this week in Galveston, bacteria spikes brought about advisories at Stewart Beach near 2nd Street, Apffel Park in East Beach, the bay side of Galveston Island State Park and Jamaica Beach. While the state of Texas does not close its public beaches, swimming was not recommended at these high-level beaches.
The Texas Beach Watch website maintains a day-to-day map of testing results. Sampling stations do not report on flesh-eating bacteria types, but detail how fertile waters are for potentially harmful micro-organisms.
"The high levels this earlier in the week were not surprising after all the rain we've had," GCHD spokesperson Kurt Koopmann tells CultureMap, noting that water runoff from dirty city streets can boost bacteria numbers. Luckily, the shear size of the Gulf causes concentrations to dilute quickly. Advisories typically last only 24 hours.
Nevertheless, Koopmann wants to remind swimmers to stay alert.
"Anytime you're in an untreated natural body of water, you need to use caution. People with weak immune systems or open cuts will always want to be extra careful."