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New Faster Water Quality Test Is Given A Chance In San Diego

San Diego County Supervisors approved a test run for a new DNA-based water testing system on Tuesday.

It could make water monitoring much more accurate.

Urban Adventures

Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego

Aired 2/27/13 on KPBS News.

San Diego County officials will start testing a DNA-based tool to measure water quality at beaches. That new test could protect public health better than the current system.

Right now, water quality testing is pretty standard in San Diego County. Fill a small beaker with water, add a powdered chemical, put it in a tray and wait.

"The problem with this is because you're culturing out live bacteria. You need them to grow before you can measure. It takes 24 hours. Sometimes up to 48 hours," said San Diego Coastkeeper's Travis Pritchard.

He routinely used the same test county officials use to check for pollution and he agrees that time is a huge issue.

People who monitor San Diego County's ocean water quality want to be able to tell swimmers if the water is dirty now, not whether it was dirty a couple of days ago.

San Diego County supervisors agreed to try out a new federally approved DNA test that works in two to four hours.

"It's good science and it's also good business," said Supervisor Greg Cox.

A faster test means the county will have better information for swimmers and surfers.

"Our goal is to open up the beaches as quickly as we can, once we are able to verify that they're safe for the public to go in," said Cox. "This newer testing will allow us to do that in four hours as opposed to the waiting the 48 hours to get the current lab test results."

The county agreed to spend $59,000 to test the new method. If results are good, the county will work on changing state rules to permit the faster test.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Crolley40'

Crolley40 | February 27, 2013 at 7:49 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Del Mar & N.county S.D areas beaches are in general more pristine and boast decent water quality compared to heavy residential metro, in its centre S.D harbor and immdeiate vicinity of it sprouting further beyond with lesser water contamination as it stretches farther from harbor except the imperial beach and border coastal region which are also heavily polluted due to the river discharge (particularly after stormy events). And due to la jolla underwater canyon (with steep slope and churning effect from movement of current- which also bring algae and nutrient rich water deep underneath every spring s to nearshore) there're less worry about bacterial born pollution than shallower sea. I was going to mention that apart from storm driven rivers and waterways discharge, inevitably that extra seweage from especially winter's heavy downpours untreated, that are conducive of excess nutrients as animal & human feces maybe, household detergent, food waste, all kinds of debris so on driven mucks and foams that are also high in lethal bacterial level..(so beach advisory after such occasions aren't only limited to surfers and swimmers but also those patrons who're exposed to air born germs), in veil under away from proper public awareness, that warrants to be addressed more clearly is toxic & chemical level pervasive & prolonging residues in CA's coastal waters, especially more heavily concentrated around metro harbors as S.D port & L.A.,but not necessarily much safer farther away from these "attention required" sites..like for instance, Palo Verde near San Pedro had once a pesticide manufacture plant (now banned & closed) which emptied irrevocable amounts of DDT to the extent the continental shelf underneath sediment proximity of it still has significant amounts of DDT (which I guess will float up every roughy storms, since it takes painstakingly long for elements to disintegrate) which has affected underwater eco environment visibly, and one of such toxic effect by this agent (though not verifiably linked to this source of contamination-P.V plant discharge) was also publicized as a couples' cancer cases upon consuming high DDT level white croakers, which are also well known to locals as tomcod(or kingfish). So, in near metro coastal piers (where fishing's permitted) warning posts can be seen (but more of those from Dept. fish and game just after this DDT, mercury, PCB, lead and other toxic issue got greater spotlight) but in other suburban coastal piers as San Clememte, or Oceanside, Newport & Balboa piers maybe, or even O.B pier in S.D there are seen no such signs advising fishermen not to eat these species (some perches, corvina-of which the habitat is quite shallow water and likely exposed to greater vulnerability, some sedentary speices also included in such advisory), even though health risk comparison between the metro and suburban located piers weren't conducted needed scientific research.

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Avatar for user 'Crolley40'

Crolley40 | February 27, 2013 at 7:50 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

But water monitoring for these chemical elements seem pretty complex unlike the bacterial detection which can be done daily basis if required after rains, or reports of illegal litering so on. This is sophsticated precedure which will (if you will) inevitably climb up the source of origin, the responsible parties (since streamlining multiple polluter sources are very difficult), and more than this issue (as internationally contentious climate change issue to find who's more responsible!) the known lethal effect to marine organisms and human who eat them as our dietary necessity will show very slowly even after the contamination is banned (like the case of P.V shutdown) till they're leached into theirs and our body to result in cancer, bone thinning, neurological damage, so on..infants and preganent women are also more susceptible to these harmful elements. But it's very difficult to lay a clear line what areas in what levels of detecting existent residue of chemical elements are categorized as safe or fair, and what the rest of others are to be designated as 'danger'zone or 'extreme high risk' zone for instance. But please do not ask me (as I'm not a water quality expert) why Sand bass or other bottom fishes, mackerels (I know most of you won't eat this..if its not red snapper or halibut maybe), scuplfins taste so bad caught near harbor mouth and just off shore of Silver Strand SB, and point loma kelp bed, compared to that of equal or similar taste species caught much farther offshore as San Clemente Island, Catalina or San miguel Island (cha. isl. chains) for instance. If you live in San Diego areas and didn't know this fact, I'd presume you're living in another world!
I don't live in S.D now=> Just to render some of you perspective..

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