‘No Swim’ advisory issued for six Sarasota County beaches, including Siesta, and Venice Fishing Pier

Amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on July 25 exceeded safe limits, Health Department says

As a precaution, Sarasota County health officials have issued “No Swim” advisories for the following beaches and waterfront locations, they announced about midday on July 28:

  • Bird Key Park/Ringling Causeway, which is located west of downtown Sarasota.
  • Siesta Key Beach.
  • Service Club Beach, which is located at 1190 Harbor Drive S. in Venice.
  • The Venice Fishing Pier, which is located at Brohard Park on the south end of the island of Venice, the City of Venice points out.
  • Brohard Beach.
  • Caspersen Beach, which is located at 4100 Harbor Drive S. in Venice.
  • Manasota Key.

The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Monday, July 25, “was outside acceptable limits,” a Health Department news release explains. “The beaches remain open, but wading, swimming and water recreation is not recommended” when “No Swim” advisories are in place, the release emphasizes.

“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 will stay in place until follow-up water testing results meet the EPA’s recreational water quality standards,” the release notes.

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

No sewage spills have been reported within 1 mile of the posted beaches and waterfront locations in the past two weeks, the release notes.

The rapid response team from Sarasota County and the City of Venice has determined the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely natural sources, the release says. “The team observed a wrack line of decaying algae around the rocks and along the shoreline. Wrack lines, which provide food for shorebirds and wildlife, act as natural bacteria reservoirs. Additionally, significant rainfall amounts may be contributing to the higher bacteria levels by washing accumulated pollutants from the land surface into waterways,” the release points out.

The Sarasota County Water Atlas, which provides rainfall data, shows that in the vicinity of Venice over the seven days through July 27, the amounts ranged from 5 to 6.04 inches.

The closest rainfall gauge to Siesta Key, as shown on the Water Atlas map, appears to be near Red Bug Slough Preserve which is located east of South Beneva Road. That gauge recorded 2.01 inches of rainfall over the same seven-day period. However, southeast of Siesta — south of Gulf Gate Estates — the total was 5.81 inches.

Staff members of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County resampled the beaches on July 28, the release adds; they expect those results late in the afternoon of July 29.

The last time the Health Department issued a “No Swim” Advisory, based on a search of Sarasota News Leader articles, was in November 2021. At that time, only Bird Key Park was affected.

Tom Higginbotham, environmental administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota), emphasizes that the Florida Healthy Beaches program protects beachgoers “when conditions are unsuitable for swimming. This is done by testing beach water weekly and providing up-to-date explanations of the results,” the release says.

“When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill,” Higginbotham pointed out 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,” Higginbotham added.

Local health officials emphasize that the affected beaches remain open, the release continues. “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,” the release says, “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, DOH-Sarasota staff members advise the public not to allow pets to roam on beaches and in park areas and to pick up pet waste. Additionally, children in diapers and people of all ages with diarrhea should not go into the water, the release stresses.

For more information:

  • Visit https://ourgulfenvironment.netand 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 for the mobile-friendly version of the beach conditions report.