Beach Study Looks For Bacteria Source

Every time there's a beach closing, Harrison County Beach Director Bobby Weaver says people are quick to assume it's because of raw sewage. But Weaver says that's wrong.

"Well, it may not be sewer. We're not sure but it just seems appropriate to try to identify the actual source."

Weaver says he hopes a half million dollar state study will do just that. Researchers are focusing on specific areas of the beach that have been closed over and over again. One of those is Pratt Avenue in Gulfport. For the second time this year, no swimming signs are posted there.

"We're taking samples of the water at the out fall pipe within this watershed, getting the bacteria that's being registered in that reading and getting a DNA fingerprint of that bacteria. Then we're going into lift stations within that particular watershed area and taking samples out of the sewer to take the DNA of that as well to see if there's a match between the two."

Weaver says there's also a third source that's being collected: waste from the beach birds and even from dogs and cats near the polluted beach areas.

"To see if we can find a correlation between what's registering in the Sound versus what's upland. Ya know if it's sewer than we have an infrastructure problem. But if it's not sewer and it's say animal than it might be more of an educational problem that we have to address," says Weaver.

Weaver says before the county sinks millions of dollars fixing what may or may not be an infrastructure problem, it's economically smarter to find what's causing the bacteria first.

The grant that is funding the study runs out in December of next year, but Weaver says he hopes before the end of this year to have at least some preliminary results from the samples taken at Pratt Avenue.