Would you want to swim on a stretch of beach inundated with raw sewage? Surfside Beach better hope some people do, or at least are oblivious to the village’s wastewater issues and don’t know any better.
A visit to the Texas Beach Watch website, which tracks water quality along the state’s coast, shows predominantly red arrows indicating high levels of fecal bacteria off Surfside and adjoining beaches. It has been a persistent problem in recent weeks, and it’s not clear whether it’s a coincidence the village had a major sewage system issue at the same time.
The Texas Commission on Environment Quality is investigating whether there is a connection between the sewage levels and high bacteria levels, but there is one aspect that doesn’t require much digging — Surfside has routinely failed to meet state standards for potable water and lacks a cohesive system for processing wastewater.
Neither problem is new, and neither has been addressed with the seriousness or urgency they should be for a community that invites thousands of visitors to its shores each year.
Each time a problem crops up with either the village’s drinking water or sewage systems — it has three of those — we are assured the solution is in the works and there is no need for residents or visitors to worry. Then within the next few months, the state issues another noncompliance letter, a project is delayed or something else breaks and the cycle repeats itself.
Situated on an island and at or below sea level, there is no easy, inexpensive resolution to the village’s infrastructure problems. Couple those issues with an unwillingness to bite the bullet and invest in the overhaul required to bring everything up to snuff, and there will be no significant, long-term progress.
Surfside had the opportunity many years ago to have a desalination plant built off its coast that could provide clean, reliable drinking water. The village rejected it because of the noise they expected it to make.
Proposals to buy excess water from Freeport provided by the Brazosport Water Authority were deemed too expensive. Talk of a wastewater treatment plant would never get anywhere for the same reason. Grant money would only go so far, and the village said it doesn’t have the money to cover the rest.
At some point, however, it will have to and it needs to get serious about putting together a public utilities system that serves residents and visitors efficiently.
Surfside is a community dependent on visitors, and it risks that vital revenue source if its reputation is it cannot ensure tourists will have clean water to swim in or coming out of their taps.