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Tamarindo Costa Rica Loses Blue Flag

The Ecological Blue Flag, a distinction granted to beaches with excellent or very high sanitation and cleanliness, has been taken away from the coastal town of Tamarindo after a series of tests have shown high levels of fecal contamination along the beachfront.

Tamarindo Sunset
Costa Rica News — Tamarindo is one of the most visited beaches in Costa Rica

This is the first time in the history of the Ecological Blue Flag Program that the Blue Flag distinction has been taken away from a beach the same year that a problem was detected.

Tamarindo has been the center of negative publicity ever since late August when La Nacion published the original study by the National Institute of Water and Sewers (AyA), which found 11 sites along the beach with a high level of fecal contamination, as well as two contaminated sites in the ocean.

The government’s slow reaction was criticized by many, but defended by the fact that more tests had to be done to show the true severity of the situation. Two hotels and one hostel were declared sources of contamination and were shut down by the Ministry of Health until they improve their water treatment processes. The Tamarindo Diria also was issued a sanitary order from the Ministry, but was not closed down, citing the need for more tests.

A representative of the program said that the decision was made to maintain the integrity of the Blue Flag Program, and noted that while some people complain that the problem is fixable, tomorrow it may not be. It is better to push the region to take action now to fix the problem while they still can.

Santa Cruz mayor, Jorge Chavarria, told La Nacion that regrets the decision and the affect it may have on tourism and said that the government will continue working on the problem, Blue Flag or not. They have already contracted a company to remove waste waters from the coastline and take them to a water treatment plant in Playa Conchal.

Tamarindo is a good example of unplanned rapid growth, a common problem in coastal tourist destinations. There is no public sewer system, so companies are required to treat their own gray waters, which cannot be disposed of directly into the ocean or rivers, however most companies ignore this.

The rainy season also intensifies sewage problems with the increase in standing water and ground water levels. It also makes it more difficult to accurately detect the sources of the pollution, which could have caused the government’s delayed action.

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Written by Claire Saylor

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