No Beach Closings In 2004

If you love to go swimming at the beach, then 2004 has been a good year. There hasn't been a single beach closing this year which is a vast contrast from the years past.

"No Swimming" signs went up 15 times in 2001, 6 times in 2002, and 16 times in 2003. The Department of Environmental Quality closes down sections of beach when there are high levels of fecal chloroform.

With a jump suit and wading shoes, Julianne Knight's beachwear differs from most. As a beach monitor technician, Knight's job is to venture out into the water along Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties and determine if there are high levels of fecal chloroform.

"It's been really good this summer so we've been really lucky and fortunate," said Knight.

"We have had some stations that have gone up but they go right back down."

These days Knight is taking fewer beach samples back to the Gulf Coast Research Lab with testing down 40 % in June. That's because new federal guidelines prohibit water Quality testing within 24 hours after a rainfall.

Lloyd Sharp works for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

"I think we've had fewer closures basically because of the rain events but also I do think that the cities have made some efforts to clean up their sewer systems better. They've done a lot of smoke testing. They have found and stopped a lot of leaks and bypasses over the last two or three years. I think a lot because they're getting this exposure from the beach closures and everything."

While healthy beaches help make for a healthy economy the DEQ says tourism is not its main concern, safety is. Knight says the people who use the beach seem to appreciate that.

"Everybody is really happy about the fact that I'm out here on a daily basis keeping track of their beaches so they're safe," said Knight.

Water samples are collected regularly at 22 sites along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.