Swimmers Beware: Water Contaminated

The Department of Environmental Quality says bacteria levels are too high along a portion of the beach in Gulfport and poses health risks to swimmers.

Employees of Gulfport's private water contractor spent Friday morning looking for what may be contaminating the water off Thorton Avenue. They're checking manholes to make sure nothing is blocking them or the sewer lines underneath that could cause the manholes to overflow. A DEQ spokesperson says the culprit could be too much rain.

"It could be causing an overload of the sewer system as far as hydraulically and the pump stations can't handle the amount of water coming in so it backs up and comes out manholes. It could have been caused by lightening hitting the pump system knocking it out so naturally the sewer backs up, overflows and goes into the storm drain system and ends up in the beach," says Lloyd Sharp.

"This is really bad for business right now," says beach vendor Gabe McCollum.

He's doing no business at his jet ski and beach chair rental stand. Further down the beach, some people ignored the signs, but McCollum says most people are staying away. McCollum says the "no swimming" sign isn't very inviting.

"We have people, the sign's posted right here where we walk out to get our jet ski riders. They start seeing' the signs there warning' no swimming' and they turn around and leave," says McCollum.

Sharp says until they get two consistent clean samples, the beach will stay closed in Gulfport and in Biloxi between Iberville and Travnia. That section closed about ten days ago after a hotel owner allegedly dumped raw sewage into a storm drain.

"Until the numbers show that water's safe to swim in we're not going to open it back up," Sharp says.

That means the water could stay off limits through the long Fourth of July weekend.