'No Swim' advisories issued for Sarasota County beaches
As a precaution, Sarasota County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for the following beaches:
• Longboat Key Beach
• North Lido Beach
• Lido Casino Beach
• South Lido Beach
• Siesta Key Beach
• Turtle Beach
• Nokomis Beach
• North Jetty Beach
• Service Club Beach
• Venice Pier Beach
• Brohard Park Beach
• Manasota Key Beach
• Casperson Beach
The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Monday 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.
Due to the weather effects from Hurricane Michael the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County will not conduct the next round of testing until seas are forecast to be 3 feet or less and there is a lower risk for rip currents.
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.
According to DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham Hurricane Michael is causing extremely high surf and dangerous rip currents along the gulf beaches. These turbulent and churning conditions expands the "swash zone" by causing waves to wash farther inward onto the beaches and exposes the water to bacteria that is naturally present in sand and soil.
No sewage spills have been reported within one mile of the posted beaches in the past two weeks.
The rapid response team from Sarasota County and the City of Venice has determined the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely due to natural sources.
The team observed moderate winds, rough surf conditions and strong currents associated with the Hurricane Michael. These conditions can churn up sand from the sea floor which and can affect water quality. Additionally, localized flooding and recent rainfall in the area washing accumulated pollutants, including bacteria from birds, pet feces, and wildlife into local waters may also be a contributing factor.
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.
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: Bird Key Park Beach, Blind Pass and Venice Beach.
For more information:
• Visit http://ourgulfenvironment.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 www.visitsarasota.org.