San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tamarindo water quality starts to improve after long battle with contamination

A new study by the National Water Laboratory revealed perennially high rates of water contamination in Costa Rica´s northern Pacific beach town of Tamarindo over the past 20 years, but also showed recent improvements.

The study charted the amount of fecal matter in water near wastewater outputs of Tamarindo businesses from 1986 to 2009. However, the sample data issued recently by the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) lacks levels for all businesses in all years studied.

Near the watershed at Hotel Tamarindo Diria, for example, the amount of fecal bacteria increased more than six-fold in one decade. The hotel released 1,800 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters of water in 1986 and 11,000 in 1996, according to AyA. But the study did not include more recent data on Diria.

The World Health Organization considers fewer than 100 fecal coliforms per 100 ml to be “class A” water.

Hotel El Milagro emitted 2,000 fecal coliforms per 100 ml in 1996 and 49,000 in 2006.

The Tamarindo estuary hit 790 fecal coliforms per 100 ml in 2006 but fell to 230 per 100 ml this year.

However, all of the points measured in 2006 and again in 2009 recorded drops, said AyA. 

Hotel Winds and Rock decreased its fecal bacteria from 460,000 to 2,800 and the Bar Copacabana, at the northern end of the town, cut contaminants from 1.6 million to 25,000 between 2006 and 2009.

During 2007 and 2008, the Costa Rican health ministry and AyA issued 80 sanitary orders for businesses to clean up their wastewater. The ministry recommends that locals form committees to oversee wastewater emissions and prevent excessive bacteria.


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