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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia Southern Protects Swimmer Health in Coastal Georgia

Population density in coastal environments are rapidly increasing worldwide, and Coastal Georgia is no different. These environmental areas are extremely sensitive to pollution and impacts from the everyday life of the individuals living or visiting these environments.  One of the main concerns of a growing population in the coastal environment is the occurrence of waterborne pathogens and their impact on public health.


[Photo: Dr. Asli Aslan]

The Water Quality Research Group in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University (JPHCOPH GSU) has been investigating the occurrence of waterborne pathogens in the beaches of Coastal Georgia.

Georgia has been using guidelines that suggest a single sample maximum of 104 CFU/100 ml for enterococci; however, recent epidemiological studies suggest a lower value for advisory decisions. The Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) has been readjusted based on these new studies and, starting in Jan. 2016, Georgia adopted the new RWQC with a “beach action value” of 70 CFU/100 ml.

The Water Quality Research Group at the GSU Public Health Core Laboratory has been testing Tybee Island beaches since 2014. That year, the beaches were issued with four advisories total, using the 104 CFU/100 ml single sample maximum value.

When the researchers applied the new 70 CFU/100 ml value, they retrospectively found the number of advisories doubled. This beach action value decrease to 70 CFU/100 ml is a critical step in beach monitoring programs, because the change allows for better prevention from waterborne diseases and protection of Georgia’s swimmer health.

Coastal Georgia and, in particular, Tybee Island beaches are fortunate to have minimum issues of microbial contamination. With the adoption of the new beach action value, Georgia’s beaches will be even safer for everyone.

“Protecting Swimmer Health in Coastal Georgia,” was published in the June 2016 issue of Georgia Environmentalist.

Dr. Asli Aslan, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Services at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University was the author of this study.