April 21st, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Recent studies by the National Water Laboratory reveal that several of the country’s beaches present a risk of illness to those who bathe in their waters due to fecal coliform levels exceeding the acceptable level of 240 coliforms per 100 ml of water.
Some of the highest levels were found in Limon, such as Playa Portete, where measurements of 7,000 fecal coliforms per 100 ml of water were taken.
On the Pacific coast, beaches near the mouth of the Tarcoles River – such as Playa Azul, Playa Tarcoles, and the coastline of central Quepos were found to have unsafe levels of fecal coliforms. All of those beaches were also found to exceed fecal coliform limits in earlier tests in January.
The southern end of Playas del Coco was also found to have unsafe levels in the most recent tests, as was also the case during earlier tests in January.
Darner Mora, director of the National Water Laboratory added that there are areas of beach near tributaries and estuaries that are highly contaminated, specifically in Jaco on the Pacific coast as well as Cahuita in Limon.
“Usually rivers and streams are used to receive wastewater from hotels and residential communities,” Mora said, adding that beachgoers should avoid swimming in areas where rivers or streams meet the ocean.
The National Water Laboratory warned of fecal contamination near tributaries and estuaries at Jaco beach in January 2012, but noted that the problem doesn’t affect the majority of the beach.
The most common risks to swimmers in areas with excessive fecal coliforms include conjunctivitis, diarrhea, and skin infections.
The National Water Laboratory evaluated 122 beaches in its most recent study.
Costa Rica’s beaches are classified in 5 categories, which indicate water quality: blue (excellent quality), which have less than 10 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters of water; green (good quality) with 10 to 100 coliforms; yellow (regular quality for swimming) with 101 to 240 coliforms; red (not recommended for swimming) with 240 to 500 coliforms and brown class (contaminated, not suitable for swimming) with 500-1,000 fecal coliforms.
Some of the beaches designated as “blue flag” in the country are Playa Blanca, Langosta, Puerto Vargas, Conchal, and Flamingo; whereas some identified as “brown” are central Quepos, Tarcoles, Azul, Golfito and Guacalillo.