The mayor of Santa Cruz ordered a new batch of tests on water quality at Tamarindo beach in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
The results are an improvement over tests in August by the National Water and Sewer Institute that revealed massive E. coli bacteria contamination at 12 of 13 test sites.
The August tests led to the beach losing its Blue Flag certification and a wave of inspections by the Health Ministry that led to 65 sewage citations and 11 closures in January.
The most recent findings, according to Mayor Jorge Chavarría, showed only four trouble spots on the south side of the beach, where bacteria is greater than acceptable levels.
Chavarría said the University of Costa Rica conducted the tests and the municipality intended to use them to attract tourism back to the area. He said the test results confirmed what he expected – that the problem wasn’t as bad as the August tests purported.
“It was high water season,” he said. “It wasn’t the right time to conduct those tests. The results this time are much better.” Guanacaste Health Director Enrique Jiménez said the tests, which he hadn’t seen, are suspicious.
“You have to make sure the tests were conducted by a certified lab,” he said. Chavarría claimed they were.
Municipal Environment Director William Araus said the mayor’s office didn’t share the tests with his office either, which he found strange.
Chavarría said he shared the results with the press and the Health Ministry.
Of the 65 sewage citations, 11 so far have resulted in business closures for failure to comply, according to Santa Cruz Health Director Juan Sánchez. But four have since reopened after complying with the orders.
Sánchez, who works under Jiménez, said he was still waiting on manpower and resources from the Health Ministry to allow him to finish follow-up inspections to determine how much improvement had been made.
Jiménez said he expected administrative headquarters to authorize the transfer of 11 inspectors from different parts of the country to complete the final inspections in either the last week of February or the first week of March.
Sánchez declined to name any of the businesses that have been cited or closed. He said most of the violations had to do with septic infrastructure problems and none had to do with businesses building secret, camouflaged pipes to dump their wastewater directly into the ocean. But he did say one hotel in the zone was under investigation for dumping treated water into an estuary.