‘No Swim’ advisory issued for Bird Key Park

Enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing undertaken on March 6

As a precaution late in the afternoon of March 9, Sarasota County health officials issued a “No Swim” advisory for Bird Key Park Beach (Ringling Causeway).

“The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Monday, March 6, was outside acceptable limits,” a news release explains. “The beach remains open,” it adds, “but wading, swimming and water recreation are not recommended” when “No Swim” advisories are in place.

Additionally, staff of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) is reminding the public that elevated levels of red tide continue to be detected at all 16 Sarasota County beaches. (See the related article in this issue.)

“Some bacteria are naturally present in the environment,” the release further explains. “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 standards.”

The release notes that DOH-Sarasota staff resampled the beach on March 9 and expects those results late in the afternoon of March 10.

“Enterococcus bacteria can come from a variety of natural and human-made sources,” the release points out. “These include pet waste, livestock, birds, land-dwelling and marine wildlife, stormwater runoff, and human sewage from failed septic systems and sewage spills.”

“DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham emphasizes that the Florida Healthy Beaches program protects beach goers when conditions are unsuitable for swimming,” the release adds. “This is done by testing beach water weekly and providing up-to-date explanations of the results,” the release notes.

“When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill,” Higginbotham said in the release. “People, especially those who are very young, elderly or who have a weak immune system that swallow water while swimming can get stomach or intestinal illnesses. If water contacts a cut or sore, people can get infections or rashes,” he added.

Local health officials emphasized that the park remains open.