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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pollution closes Hudson Beach



The decades-long struggle with contaminated water at Hudson Beach is not over.

Wednesday afternoon, the Pasco branch of the state Health Department issued an advisory for the Robert J. Strickland Park, commonly known as Hudson Beach, saying high bacteria levels in the water posed a potential health threat to swimmers.

In the spring, the county’s public works staff announced that it believed it had solved the long-standing pollution problems that have plagued the water for decades and closed the beach to swimmers for 10 weeks last summer.

“It is definitely frustrating,’’ Commissioner Jack Mariano said Wednesday. His district includes the beach on Clark Street.

The Health Department said the high level of so-called enteric bacteria, normally founded in the intestinal tract of human and animals, can cause disease, infections and rashes. The high count is indicative of fecal pollution from storm water runoff, pets or wildlife waste, or human sewage.

Area septic tanks had long been a suspected source of the contamination. But, in April, county officials said they had used complex testing known as source tracking to determine what type of fecal matter was in the water and then followed with GPS devices to study water flows. They said they ruled out septic tank leaks and instead focused on a wastewater line running parallel to the beach and the parking lot owned by Ni Florida LLC, a private utility serving 2,621 customers in Hudson.

Ni Florida used cameras to examine its pipe, discovered a leak and fixed it in January, Pasco Public Works Director Mike Garrett told commissioners in an April workshop.

The company disputes that account, saying its video inspections showed no problems in pipes in the vicinity of Hudson Beach. 

“My evaluation is that there was no clear indication at all that we were causing the contamination. None whatsoever,’’ said company spokesperson Andrena Powell-Baker.

Bacteria can come from septic tanks, improper release of waste from a boat, animal waste or even heavy rainfall carrying contamination from stormwater ditches, the company said.

Whatever the source, the bacteria returned this week and the swimming advisory, the first since Oct. 30, 2015, will remain in effect at least until the next round of tests scheduled for Aug. 29.


[Last modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 4:53pm]


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