Social isolation and the need to protect officials at risk groups due to the new coronavirus pandemic resulted in a blackout of data on the quality of Brazilian beaches in 2020.
Of the 17 states on the Brazilian coast, only Paraíba and Sergipe carried out the recording and analysis of beach water equalization throughout the year. In Paraíba, the quality of most of the beaches has improved in the twelve months between November 1, 2019 and October 31, 2020. Sergipe did not send the data to Folha.
In most other states, the collection and analysis of water quality was suspended in March. In some cases, it was resumed in whole or in part from September.
This data has been monitored by Folha for five years in accordance with federal regulations on bathing. A stretch is considered suitable for bathing if no more than 1,000 fecal coliforms per 100 ml of water were recorded in the week of analysis and in the previous four.
The Cetesb method (environmental company of the State of São Paulo) is used for the annual assessment, in which the beaches are divided into good, regular, bad or very bad based on weekly tests. Swimming in unsuitable areas can cause health problems, particularly gastrointestinal or skin conditions.
In the state of São Paulo, the beaches were no longer monitored on March 15 due to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
Since then, the points have been gradually monitored since July and, according to Cetesb, did not reach 100% of the beaches monitored before the start of the pandemic until the end of November this year.
The first complete bulletin of the environmental authority with 177 analyzed measuring points will be published at the end of December. This means more than nine months of disruption to all data.
Claudia Lamparelli, Manager of the Coastal Water Sector at Cetesb, says the measurements have been temporarily suspended for two reasons.
The first problem was the restriction of the personal activities of Cetesb employees, especially those who are at risk in the event of contamination by Covid-19. The quarantine began in March.
In addition, the main objective of measuring bathing, namely to guarantee information about which beaches are suitable for swimming, has lost its importance.
“With the pandemic, the beaches were closed and we assessed the quality of the water for bathers. When people don’t take a shower, the main goal wasn’t that it was just that, ”says Lamparelli.
She states that this was the first time since bathing measurements began in the 1970s that the quality of the beaches in the state of São Paulo is no longer rated.
“Even when a barrier fell on the north coast, the employee picked it up, even if it was the next day. Four months that stopped completely never happened, ”he says.
The state monitors 157 beaches with 177 points, including seven in Ilha Anchieta State Park in Ubatuba.
The program was partially resumed at the end of July with 55 beaches, as some communities, mainly Baixada Santista, started to allow activities on the beaches – even without the use of chairs and umbrellas.
“Baixada has the highest abundance of people, more than 80% of the population is there, and even in terms of the floating population, the current is greater there than on the north coast,” says Lamparelli.
The total number of beaches rose to 61 in September and 72 in October, until they reached all of them in late November. Activities ceased in winter when it rains less and historically there are fewer people on the beaches, which means better water quality.
In the state of Rio de Janeiro, measurements returned in August on the beaches to the west and south of the capital and in Niterói. In other coastal cities in the state, service is gradually resuming, according to the government.
This resumed service on beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Recreio, Grumari and Prainha.
With the longest coastline among the Brazilian states, Bahia discontinued its analysis of beach bathing in March. Measurements returned from June only in Salvador and some beaches on the north coast.
This month the bathing analysis of the beaches in Baixo-Sul, where the beaches of Morro de São Paulo are located, and in the south of Bahia, including Ilhéus and Itacaré, was published.
The beaches in the far south of the state, home to cities like Porto Seguro, Santa Cruz Cabrália, and Prado, have not yet resumed. The return will take place gradually, taking into account the five consecutive weeks of analysis that precede the disclosure.
Eduardo Topázio, director of water resources and environmental monitoring at Inema, Bahia’s environmental agency, said the measurements had been suspended because of the public health emergency.
In Bahia, bathing tests are being carried out by Ceped (Research and Development Center), an agency affiliated with the Secretariat for Science and Technology, which started prioritizing the requirements of Covid-19 tests.
Even without bathing dates between March and July, there are indications of a possible improvement in the quality of the beaches in Salvador in quarantine. For one, sea turtles appeared for the first time in 20 years on Farol da Barra beach, one of the busiest in town.
Spawning took place in July of this year – the month when measurements were already taken in the capital and the water quality in the region was rated as excellent.
In Rio Grande do Norte, Idema (Institute for Sustainable Development and Environment of Rio Grande do Norte) resumed measurements three weeks ago after a nine-month break.
In addition to the pandemic, the state was out of service due to the end of the contract with the foundation responsible for monitoring.
The last full bulletin was March 23rd. The collections have already started, but the bulletin with the first classification (from the five-week analysis) should be published on Friday 25th.
Idema, in collaboration with IFRN (federal institute), signed a contract with Funcern (Foundation to support the education and technological development of RN) to carry out the microbiological analysis of sediments on the beaches.
The group collects samples all year round at 33 points in Grande Natal between Nísia Floresta and Extremoz. On other beaches, collection takes place from December to February. The contract, signed in November, has a term of 12 months with the possibility of extension and costs the state R $ 385,000.
Other states in the northeast such as Maranhão, Ceará and Alagoas also stopped taking measurements in March and have not yet resumed.
In the southern states of the country, Santa Catarina shut down in March, but according to Gelma (laboratory management and environmental measurements) of the state government, weekly collections resumed in September.