BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi officials said they are working to keep the issue that caused a mile and a half stretch of beach to close from happening again. Because of bacteria levels, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is advising people not to enter the water or eat seafood caught from near the shore between St. Peter Street and Dukate Street.
About ten warning signs went up on Wednesday, letting visitors know about the beach closure which MDEQ officials said is due to drainage work done by the City of Biloxi. Biloxi officials said city workers cleaned some storm water drainage lines in that area as part of the work on Lighthouse Park. Officials said the work underway should keep this issue from re-occurring.
"Our work there should resolve this issue from re-occurring, but to be clear, anytime drain lines are cleaned, you run the risk of stirring up sediment that may have accumulated over the years," said Vincent Creel, Biloxi spokesperson.
The closed area is a popular stretch of Biloxi beachfront with several hotels and casinos. Officials said they've stepped up their efforts to notify people of beach closings. They've put up warning flags and posted on social media as well as posting signs.
The messages on the signs are clear. Stay out of the water.
"I just say if they have a warning sign, it's probably best not to get in. I mean they're up for a reason," Ethan Grant said.
Most people seem to heed the warning. At Porter Avenue, an area usually busy with tourists, a beach vendor told us late Thursday afternoon that he hadn't rented a single jet ski all day. Some visitors said they assumed the signs were the same as the ones about beach rules and didn't pay attention to the postings.
"We had no idea it was closed," said Nelda Graham.
"No, we didn't notice it. We should have looked, but we didn't. We didn't pay attention," Graham's cousin Melanie Daisy said.
The Harrison County Sand Beach Authority puts up the signs at the request of MDEQ. Officials said about 10 signs were placed mostly near parking bays and beach entry points.
Sand beach officials say about six months ago, they started putting up flags at entry points to better help get visitors' attention.
John Firth and his family entered a less used section of beach that was in between the signs, and they didn't see the warnings before going to play in the water.
"I bring my children to the beach and don't know it's closed because of bacteria. That's kind of scary," said Firth.
Firth had come to the beach directly from the hospital to give his children a chance to play before the family headed home to Louisiana.
"Yes, for a bacteria, MSRA. I just left the VA hospital not even 20 minutes ago. Now, I'm walking on a beach that has bacteria, and I didn't even know. That's scary," Firth said.
Officials said when bacteria levels are back to normal for two straight days, the beach will reopen.