BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The City of Biloxi confirmed about 25,000 gallons of sewage spilled Thursday morning, forcing the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to close a busy section of the beach. The area affected stretches from Travia Avenue to Iberville Drive.
It was initially under a beach advisory, but that changed when a sewer force main at Rodenburg Avenue broke. It looks like that area of the beach will remain closed at least through Monday.
As Harrison County Sand Beach crews built a berm to prevent any more sewage from reaching the water, Biloxi Public Works crews scrambled to find the broken force main that caused about 25,000 gallons of waste to flow onto the sand.
"The city is working very hard to take care of it, which I appreciate. I don't want to have anything negative. They have their hands full down here doing it," said J.J. Pierotich.
Pierotich owns Sharkheads souvenir shop, which is right next to the broken main that's connected to the lift station on Rodenburg Avenue.
"In watching this and seeing what's been going on since Katrina, it certainly makes me want to encourage the city to get the lift station moved," said Pierotich.
Many visitors said the sewage spill and beach closure caught them off guard.
When asked if he saw the No Swimming sign nearby, Brian Fletcher, of Alberta, Canada, replied, "No, I didn't. I didn't realize the beach was closed or that the water was closed at all."
Gabi Oubre and her mom actually went kayaking.
"We went kayaking, flipped over, so it's very concerning. My mom has health issues, so it's definitely something that's scary and wish we had known about it before hand," said Oubre. "The sign is posted on the left hand side, but it's a tiny sign, and from everyone we talked to on the beach so far, nobody could really tell."
Several people seemed more understanding and said they will just avoid going in the water.
"I don't care to go in the water anyways, but it's a shame that this happened," said Raye Jackson, of Indiana.
"If I had my grandkids with me and we were here for the week, it would be devastating," said Charlotte White, of Texas.
Several visitors were visibly disappointed and worried.
"I think we'll just go back to the hotel at the casino and probably stay at the pool there, which is unfortunate, because it looks like a beautiful beach," said Fletcher.
"Definitely want to shower. That's for sure, and maybe go for a checkup just to make sure everything's okay. When the kayak flipped over, you obviously get bumps and scrapes and stuff, so we want to make sure, but it's definitely very concerning," said Oubre.
Repairs to the broken main wrapped up around 3:30 p.m. The MDEQ said water sampling will continue on Monday. It usually takes 24 hours for results to come back.
Two of the samples must be under acceptable bacteria levels for the agency to reopen that section of beach.
You can always find more information on the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program here: http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/msbeach/index.cgi