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Swimming In This Bayou Could Make You Sick, But There’s A Plan To Change That

Dickinson Bayou is just one of many water sources across the state with potentially-harmful levels of bacteria.


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Conservationists want the public's help to clean up a watershed in Galveston and Brazoria Counties. But Dickinson Bayou, southeast of Houston, is just one of many water sources across the state with potentially-harmful levels of bacteria.

Charriss York works on water protection for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She makes the bayou sound pretty fun: folks in the area use it for water-skiing and swimming. But, the bayou contains a lot of something called "fecal coliform bacteria" in the water, and it can make you sick. As in food poisoning sick.

The bacteria get into the water from broken septic systems, excrement from livestock and dogs, and waste from water lines. It's bad enough that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers the bayou "impaired."

So why not just swim somewhere else?

York says most Houston-area bayous have problems like this, and if they're not cleaned up one by one, the bacteria could flow into new areas.

“That becomes a huge problem that’s very difficult to address,” she says, “so ultimately, these are all ways to help protect Galveston Bay as well as just the bayous and the other water bodies.”

York says a cleanup plan put together by the Dickinson Bayou Water Partnership could see real results in five to ten years. It lays out a range of voluntary ways for locals to protect the bayou, along with state regulations and penalties for violating them. The bayou partnership will explain details at a meeting at Dickinson City Hall at 6:30 PM Thursday.

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