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Monday, November 16, 1998

Surfside Beach comes up clean in first testing results

CLUTE, Texas (AP) - The first quarter results of the yearlong bacteria testing of Surfside Beach show the waters are safe for swimmers, surfers, sailors and fishermen.

"Basically we don't have anything to worry about. We thought our beaches were clean and now we have proof of that," said Yvonne Perez, the General Land Office's Beach Watch program director.

The program was announced in August by Land Commissioner Garry Mauro after Texas received a "beach bum" designation from a national environmental organization critical of the state's limited monitoring of coastal waters. Surfside Beach was among 11 of the state's most visited Gulf beaches chosen for the testing program.

"We had nothing to hide. We were excited when they put us on the list and this proves our water is safe," said Surfside Mayor Larry Davison told The Facts, the daily newspaper of Brazoria County, south of Houston.

The Beach Watch program tests six designated areas of Surfside Beach about once a week for two types of bacteria: fecal coliform and enterococcus. Both serve as indicators of water contamination.

Though Texas has not adopted standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ms. Perez said Surfside's bacteria count levels are far lower than what the EPA considers dangerous.

One of the goals of the Beach Watch program is to set a standard with which to compare future results, Ms. Perez added.

She said the results are given to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the Texas Department of Health, who would notify the public if there were a problem.

Results of the weekly bacteria testing at the 11 most visited beaches will be available on the Internet within the next month.

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