SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Spring break is here, which usually means more people out at the beach enjoying the beautiful Gulf Coast. But some South Mississippi beaches have water advisories in place right now, which means swimming is not recommended.
According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, advisories have been issued in the following locations due to high bacteria levels:
- Pass Christian West Beach, from Fort Henry Avenue east to Elliot Street
- Pass Christian East Beach, from Espy Avenue to Hayden Avenue
- Long Beach, from Oak Gardens Avenue east to Girard Avenue
- Gulfport Central Beach, from Alfonso Drive east to Arkansas Avenue
- Ocean Springs Shearwater Beach, from Weeks Bayou to Ashley
While these warnings are in effect, it does not mean the beaches are closed. All beaches in South Mississippi remain open, and the public can still enjoy the sand portion of the beach section under advisory, but it is "swim at your own risk" if you choose to come in contact with the water.
MDEQ also has a standing recommendation to not go swimming during or within 24 hours of a significant rainfall, which much of the Coast saw on Thursday.
The bacteria in the coastal waters can come from a variety of sources, both near the shore and inland. They include stormwater runoff, boating waste, sewer overflows, wildlife, and other human activities. Elevated levels of bacteria are also associated with strong winds, which stir up sediments, and rain events.
An advisory is issued when bacteria levels exceed water quality criteria, posing an increased risk to human health. Under the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program, water is tested for the presence of Enterococcus bacteria, which is an indicator for bacteria pollution.
The water at the beach will be resampled every 24 hours until levels fall within a safe range. MDEQ says when water samples show levels that are once again safe for human contact, the advisories will be lifted.
People who come in contact with water contaminated with this Enterococcus bacteria are at an increased risk of becoming ill. Pathogens associated with this type of pollution can cause ear, eye, skin and respiratory infections, gastrointestinal illness, and more serious diseases such as meningitis and hepatitis.
Members of the public that are at the most risk to illnesses like these are the very young, seniors, and people with compromised immune systems. Also, open cuts or sores are more prone to get an infection. While all natural bodies of water pose some risk., you can limit the risk by keeping your head above water and not ingesting any saltwater while swimming. It is also a good practice to shower after swimming.
For the latest beach advisories happening in South Mississippi, visit MDEQ's website by clicking here. To receive beach advisories directly on your phone, you can text "MDEQbeach" to 95577, or follow MDEQ on Twitter at @MDEQ.