UPDATE: 'No Swim' advisories lifted for area beaches
"No Swim" advisories issued Thursday, May 17 for Venice Beach, Venice Fishing Pier Beach, Manasota Key Beach and Turtle Beach have been lifted. Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County officials received testing results today that were at a satisfactory level meeting both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state recreational water standards. Residents and visitors may return to swimming and other water sports... at this beach site. The "no swim" advisory signage will be removed.
The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County monitors water quality weekly at 16 sites along Sarasota's 34 miles of beaches. The intent of this program is to provide county residents and visitors with accurate, up-to-date information on the water quality at our beaches. At this time, there are no advisories in place on any Sarasota beaches.
When making beach day plans, be sure to check the latest reports on beach conditions. For beach water testing results, click here.
Original release from 5/17
As a precaution, Sarasota County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for the following beaches:
• Venice Beach
• Venice Fishing Pier Beach
• Manasota Key Beach
• Turtle Beach
The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Thursday, May 17 was outside acceptable limits. The beaches remain open, however, wading, swimming and water recreation is not recommended as long as there is an advisory in place.
Some bacteria are naturally present in the environment. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found a link between health and water quality. Signage advising the public not to swim or engage in water recreation will stay in place until follow-up water testing results meet the EPA's recreational water quality standard. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County expects to have the next round of test results available on Friday, May 18.
Enterococcus bacteria can come from a variety of natural and human-made sources. These include pet waste, livestock, birds, wildlife (land-dwelling and marine), stormwater runoff, and human sewage from failed septic systems and sewage spills. No sewage spills have been reported within one mile of the beaches in the past month.
The rapid response teams from Sarasota County and the City of Venice have determined the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely due to natural sources. The teams observed wrack lines of decaying algae and shorebird activity. Wrack lines, which contain marine algae and a variety of marine organisms that provide food for shorebirds and wildlife, act as natural bacteria reservoirs. Recent heavy rains associated with a tropical disturbance in the Gulf wash accumulated pollutants, including bacteria from birds, pet feces, and wildlife into local waters. In addition, rough surf conditions associated with the disturbance churn up sand from the bottom and can affect water quality.
Department of Health-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham emphasizes that the Florida Healthy Beaches program protects beach goers when conditions are unsuitable for swimming. We do this by testing beach water and providing up-to-date explanations of the results.
"When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill. People especially those who are very young, elderly or who have a weak immune system who swallow water while swimming can get stomach or intestinal illnesses. If water comes in contact with a cut or sore, people can get infections or rashes." says Higginbotham.
Local health officials emphasize that beaches remain open. However, residents and visitors are urged not to wade, swim or engage in water recreation at these beaches until the advisory is lifted. In addition, you should not eat shellfish such as crabs and shrimp collected in the immediate area of any beach with a no-swim advisory in place. Finfish caught live and healthy can be eaten if filleted.
"Our coastline of over 30 miles of world-class beaches is a wonderful asset to our community," says Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. "Let's work together to help preserve this amenity."
To help keep beach water safe for swimming and recreation, do not allow pets to roam on beaches and in park areas and pick up pet waste. Additionally, children in diapers and people of all ages with diarrhea should not go into the water.
Testing has revealed bacteria levels within acceptable limits at the following area beaches: North Lido Beach, South Lido Park Beach, Lido Casino Beach, Longboat Key Beach, Siesta Beach, Brohard Beach, Blind Pass Beach, Nokomis Beach, Caspersen Beach, North Jetty Beach and Ringling Causeway.
"It is important to know that our beaches are never closed," says Haley. "When making beach day plans, be sure to check the latest reports on beach conditions and read beach condition signs at beach entrance ways. The signs are also posted on lifeguard stands when present."
For more information:
• Visit https://ourgulfenvironment.scgov.net and click on water monitoring and then bacterial testing to check beach water testing results of area Gulf beaches.
• Call 941-BEACHES (941-232-2437) or visit www.visitbeaches.org. Click on the same link to the mobile-friendly version of the beach conditions report.
• The local visitor and convention bureau known as Visit Sarasota County also provides extensive information about the Sarasota area, including its beaches. The website is www.visitsarasota.org.