Bacteria Keeping Beaches Off Limits To Swimmers

Light rain, not the "no swimming" signs, forced Tim and Sharmaine Brauninger and their two kids off the beach near Pratt Avenue Tuesday morning.  Despite the signs, the Brauninger's didn't know anything about the polluted water until we told them. That's when what they saw Monday began to make sense.

"There were a bunch of people who were way out there in the water and we just heard some people screaming out hey get outta the water, get outta the water," says Sharmaine Brauninger.

The Brauninger's are staying at the Holiday Inn across the street. Manager Asher Travis says anytime the beach shuts down, it's bad news for his guests.

"Quite honestly a lot of a tourists who are coming to the beach may not pay a lot of attention to it, but we do get phone calls saying, 'I understand your beach is closed.' So I know it's costing us some business."

So what's causing all the pollution that's closing different sections of the beach? The Department of Environmental Quality says it's clueless.

"We think it's a combination of things. We've had a lot of rain this year. That washes a lot of pollutants off into our storm drain systems, also causes sewer systems to overflow. We've had a lot of wind from tropical storms and that's keeping the mud stirred up," says Lloyd Sharp of the DEQ.

Sharp says the cities can't find answers either.

"We find the problem and we put it back on the cities to correct the problem and many times they just cannot find, I hate to use the word smoking gun, but they just cannot find something that's directly contributing to the problem."

The DEQ is taking water samples everyday. That part of the beach will stay closed until the DEQ collects two consecutive clean samples. Along with Pratt Avenue, there are three other areas of the beach still closed: one in Long Beach and two more in Gulfport.