Headed to a Texas beach? Map tracks levels of fecal bacteria at popular destinations

55 of 61 Texas beaches had potentially unsafe levels of bacteria at least one day in 2020, report says

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

If you’re heading to a Texas beach this summer, you’ll want to check the fecal bacteria levels before heading to the shore.

A map provided by the Texas General Land Office, which oversees some public lands and beaches, monitors the fecal bacteria levels along the Texas coast, collecting samples and testing them for contamination.

And, even though the COVID-19 pandemic may have kept many Texans indoors last year, that doesn’t mean the beaches got any cleaner.

In fact, according to an analysis by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, 55 of the 61 Texas beaches they researched had potentially unsafe levels of bacteria at least one day in 2020.

Of those 61 Texas beaches, the analysis stated that 31 had at least 25% “potentially unsafe days.”

Whether you’re swimming, diving, or wading in these contaminated waters, the contaminants can still pose hazards to your health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, contact with water that is contaminated with fecal bacteria can cause “gastrointestinal illness (such as diarrhea or vomiting), respiratory illness, and other health problems.”

Skin, ear, eye, sinus, and wound infections can also result from exposure to the contaminated waters, the EPA’s website states.

The sources of water contamination may include sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, stormwater runoff, boating waste, and humans and animals, according to a previous KSAT 12 report.

“Water samples are collected from 164 stations at approximately 61 recreational beaches along the Texas coast in Aransas, Brazoria, Cameron, Galveston, Jefferson, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces and San Patricio counties,” according to the Texas Beach Watch website.

Samples are collected weekly from May through September and bi-weekly the rest of the year, except in March “when weekly sampling is conducted to coincide with spring break,” the website states.

Click here to view the Texas Beach Watch map.

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About the Authors:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.