Garniers, Lincoln and Lions parks under health advisory due to bacteria, sewage spill

Special to the Northwest Florida Daily News/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County has issued health advisories for several waterbodies in Fort Walton Beach, Valparaiso and Niceville.

Health advisories were issued for Garniers Beach Park in Fort Walton Beach and Lincoln Park in Valparaiso. The health advisories are based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standards for enterococci, bacteria that is an indication of fecal pollution which may come from stormwater runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage.

The sampling was conducted as part of the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County's biweekly saltwater beach water quality monitoring at 11 sites through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program. 

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On Thursday afternoon, the DOH also issued separate health advisories for Snapper Cove within Cinco Bayou located off Monahan Drive in Fort Walton Beach and Boggy Bayou, to include both Lions Park in Niceville and Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, due to wastewater releases. 

Waters contaminated with wastewater presents several health hazards to humans and may contain untreated human sewage with microbes that could cause gastro-intestinal and other diseases, according to a DOH-Okaloosa advisory. Anyone who comes into contact with the affected waterway should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking.

Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to disease, so every precaution should be taken by those who come in contact with the affected waters.  

People swim Garniers Park in Fort Walton Beach Thursday near a sign warning of high bacteria levels in the water and advising visitors to the park to avoid the water.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a public notice of pollution detailing the circumstances of the wastewater release.

About 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Cove Drive No. 1 Lift Station at 117 Monahan Drive in unincorporated Fort Walton Beach, experienced a sanitary sewer overflow during an intense rain.

After receiving an alarm, staff responded to find that the starters for the pumps had overheated and tripped. The station never lost power, but due to extended pump run times from the inflow and infiltration of stormwater/groundwater into the public sewer system throughout the day and evening, the pump starters tripped.

After a week of cold and rain, I ventured out for some sun and warm air in a number of our local parks Monday. Garniers Beach Park in Fort Walton Beach.

Pump operation was manually restored within minutes. During the event, approximately 200 gallons overflowed from the station into a nearby storm drain that ultimately discharges into Snapper Cove off of Cinco Bayou. Crews have already cleaned and disinfected the affected area.

Okaloosa County Water and Sewer and the City of Niceville are performing water quality monitoring and testing. Once satisfactory results are achieved, the health advisory will be lifted through a future press release.