Some of the Pacific coast’s most popular beaches are dangerously polluted with sewage runoff, according to a broad study revealed Friday by the National Water and Sewer Institute (AyA).
According to water samples taken Aug. 13, the beaches of Playas del Coco, Playa Tambor and Jacó are hazardous to human health.
The most seriously polluted beaches, however, lie on the Caribbean, in the near the port city of Limón: Cieneguitas and Portete.
The tourist beaches of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, farther to the south, were clean, the study found.
The northern Pacific’s Playa Tamarindo, which last year made headlines for shockingly high levels of fecal coli form in its waves, has managed to dramatically lower contamination levels.
“The fact that it has improved does not mean that everything has gotten better,” said Darner Mora, the head of AyA’s National Water Laboratory. “There is still much to do.”
According to Mora, though the ocean water levels have gone down, inspectors have discovered new sources of untreated wastewater flowing into the ocean.
In August 2007, AyA found fecal coli form bacteria levels as high as 4,600 and 1,100 parts per 100 milliliters (ml) of water.
AyA and the Public Health Ministry warn that swimming in anything higher than 240 parts per 100 ml of water can be hazardous to your health.
In a test of water levels on Aug. 13 of this year, fecal coli form levels in Tamarindo were down to 45 and 20 parts per 100 ml at the same places.
Mora said that, at all the beaches, the studies were taken at two points chest deep in the ocean at least 100 meters from the outlet of any streams or water discharges.
For Jacó, which has also made recent headlines for its water contamination problems, the average of the two samples taken Aug. 13 was 472 parts of coli form per 100 ml of water.
Playa Tambor, on the tip of the Pacific’s Nicoya Peninsula, had a level of 327 coliforms per 100 ml of water.
At Playas del Coco, samples taken from the north end of that beach had an average of 805 parts per 100 ml of water. The south end was much lower, at 173.
The filthiest beach on the Pacific, however, is that of Quepos, a small port town on the Central Pacific coast, north of Manuel Antonio National Park. Offshore from Quepos, where the Pez Vela Marina is under construction, coli form levels were clocked at 2,400.
The beaches within the neighboring national park, however, are clean, Mora said.
Mora noted that while some beaches showed serious contamination problems, the majority of Costa Rica’s coastal waters are pristine, or very close to it.