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Water Quality Research

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In August of 1999, the Environmental Analysis Program (EAP) was initiated within the Environmental Health Division.  The purpose of this program is to determine what environmental factors may contribute to bacterial water quality in the bayous, creeks and estuaries of Escambia County.

Escambia County Ordinance Chapter 98 Article III (70.8kb; pdf), requires further regulation of Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems. The revision requires the inspection of existing septic tanks in Escambia County (south of Well Line Road) prior to property sales.  The inspection provides valuable data regarding the tank location, structural integrity, functionality and distance to the seasonal high water table and surface water.  This data helps to determine if existing septic tanks may be leaching into our water ways.  Many failing and substandard septic tanks have been replaced as a result of this program.

Another requirement of the ordinance is enforcement of public sewer connection where sewer is deemed available.  This is particularly important in low-lying areas of Escambia County, where septic tanks, in many cases, are close in proximity to the drinking water table, and surface water.  In cases such as this, untreated sewage from septic tanks can contaminate these water ways and ultimately affect public health through bathing and recreation exposure. Septic tanks and Sewage

The water sampling portion of this program involved taking water samples in Bayou Grande, Bayou Chico and Bayou Texar to be analyzed for fecal bacteria.  Fecal coliform and Enterococci are both enteric bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. If they are present in high concentrations in recreational waters and are ingested while swimming or enter the skin through a cut or sore, they may cause human disease, infections or rashes.

Take a look at the Bayou Report (15kb; pdf) for a compilation of our research efforts through cooperation with the University of West Florida.