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Defective sewage waste infrastructure blamed for rise in superbugs


(NaturalNews) Last summer, beaches and waterways were closed after St. Petersburg dumped millions of gallons of a mixture of storm water and untreated sewage into Tampa Bay and Clam Bayou. Swimming, fishing and even playing in the water were subsequently banned, and residents were warned to avoid any type of contact with surface water.

The fecal bacteria within this water was deemed dangerous enough to force the closures, but now there is something even more dire to worry about in the area's waters: A team of University of South Florida biologists discovered that a sewer line break that occurred back in 2014 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is capable of transferring the genes that cause its antibiotic resistance to other bacteria.

Researcher Suzanne Young of USF's Department of Integrative Biology told WMNF News that aging infrastructure is the culprit, and that the problem could get worse before it gets better.

She said that it was quite possible that more such breaks could occur, releasing raw sewage into nearby waterways and the environment. She also explained why this particular antibiotic-resistant bacteria was so concerning:

"These particular bacteria, they're called vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Something that's kind of misunderstood a lot, is that antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon. We see it in the environment anyway, but, what was concerning to us was this was associated with a human pathogen and with the antibiotic resistance gene that can be easily transferred between bacteria."

Antibiotic overuse blamed

Young stated that she felt rising antibiotic use is behind the proliferation of this particular gene. She noted that the gene has been seen in hospital waste in the past, but this is the first time it has been found in residential wastewater, which is very risky because of the potential for it to spread to surrounding areas. Sewer spills into recreational water and beaches pose a significant threat to human health, particularly when you consider the fact that Young's research team were able to detect the gene for nearly two weeks after the original spill date.

She's calling on the government and healthcare system in general to give more consideration to the impact of antibiotic use.

Four Florida counties declare water state of emergency

Four counties in Florida are currently under a state of emergency as a result of the high levels of toxic algae found in the ocean there. Several beaches were closed over the 4th of July weekend, and the problem is only getting worse, as a foul-smelling, slimy algae triggers complaints of respiratory problems, rashes and headaches.

The algae began forming after authorities let water flow from Lake Okeechobee to canals that drain into the ocean a few weeks ago. Farm-fertilizer runoff has been blamed for the algae blooms, but some scientists believe that biosolids are also playing a role. This waste material occurs when solids from domestic sewage undergo further treatment to meet regulations, and these biosolids are known to be used in the areas surrounding the lake. Biosolids often test positive for heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, phthalates and other dangerous chemicals.

This means that rules governing the placement of biosolids are being blatantly ignored. This is yet another example of why independent lab testing is so important in uncovering the presence of dangerous substances in our environment.

Algae continues to take over the intracoastal area of Summa Beach in West Palm Beach. These waters are popular places for children to play, causing concern among residents about the possible health effects of the toxic algae. Authorities have sent samples of the algae to a Tallahassee lab to determine if it is dangerous to animals or humans. Those results are expected on Friday.

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