Bacteria prompts 'no swim' advisories at Sarasota Co. beaches

- Sarasota County health officials have issued 'no swim' advisories for more than a dozen beaches due to a high level of bacteria in the water.

The county says the advisories are a precaution and beaches remain open. However, wading, swimming and water recreation is not recommended as long as there is an advisory in place. 

"This type of bacteria is found naturally in the environment. When we have the kind of weather conditions that we have over the past week, we see the Gulf of Mexico get turned up, it gets more sand in the water and that can expose the water to higher levels of bacteria," said Tom Higginbotham the Environmental Health Director for the Florida Department of Health's Sarasota County Offices. 

The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Monday was outside acceptable limits at the 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

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.

"People should be aware that bacteria levels are high and it's best practice to not go swimming in the water. For those people who have underlying medical conditions or if you have any cuts or abrasions on your skin it is absolutely recommended that you stay out o the water," said Higginbotham.

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.

According to Higginbotham Hurricane Michael is causing extremely high surf and dangerous rip currents along the gulf beaches. These turbulent and churning conditions expand 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.

The county says 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 say the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely due to natural sources. 

For more information or to monitor the beach conditions visit http://ourgulfenvironment.net/.

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