Recent rains cited as possible reason for higher levels of enterococcus bacteria found in the water
As a precaution, Sarasota County health officials have issued a “No swim” advisory at Nokomis Beach, located at 100 Casey Key Road in Nokomis.
The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Wednesday, July 20, “was outside acceptable limits,” a news release says. The beach remains open, the release notes, but wading, swimming and water recreation are not recommended as long as an advisory is in effect. “People are encouraged to read the signage and heed flags” when visiting area beaches, the release notes.
People also should not eat shellfish, such as crabs and shrimp collected in the immediate area of Nokomis Beach, the release adds. “However, it is safe to fish and eat fin-fish from these waters.”
“Some bacteria are naturally present in the environment,” the release points out. “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 at Nokomis Beach will stay in place until follow-up water testing results meet the EPA’s recreational water quality standard,” the release adds. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) expects to have the next round of test results available on Friday, July 22.
Enterococcus bacteria can come from a variety of natural and man-made sources, the release explains. 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 1 mile of the beach in the past month, the release says.
“The rapid response team from Sarasota County has determined that the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely due to natural sources,” the release adds. Recent rains in the area that washed accumulated pollutants — including bacteria from pet feces, birds and wildlife — into local waters have been seen as an important factor, the release points out. “The response team also observed a large amount of bird activity along the shoreline,” which can contribute to the elevated reading, the release says.
DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham emphasizes that the Florida Healthy Beaches program protects beachgoers when conditions are unsuitable for swimming. “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,” he notes in the release. Additionally, if the water comes in contact with a cut or sore, people can get infections or rashes, he explains in the release.
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.
The public also is welcome to 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.