UPDATE: Algae bloom beach closings now extend into Harrison County

MDEQ warns residents about algae at Hancock County beaches

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Five areas of the beach in Harrison County now join four in Hancock County closed to swimmers because of a blue-green algae bloom. Those sections added Monday include:

  • Pass Christian West Beach
  • Pass Christian Central Beach
  • Pass Christian East Beach
  • Long Beach Beach
  • Gulfport Central Beach

The four areas already closed in Hancock County are:

  • Lakeshore Beach
  • Buccaneer State Park Beach
  • Waveland Beach
  • Bay St. Louis Beach

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality advised that people and pets avoid contact with certain waterways that contain blue-green algae, including swimming. Contact with the toxic algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

MDEQ also advises people to not eat fish or seafood from affected waters.

All other beaches along the Mississippi Gulf Coast remain open. MDEQ will resume sampling Tuesday, and this advisory may be revised as results dictate.

Hancock County’s beach closings were announced over the weekend, and took some beachgoers by surprise. Instead of dipping their toes in the water, one family visiting from Louisiana had to settle for sand.

“That sucked. I was doing some deep diving, trying to get to the deep end a little bit. Too bad I never made it, didn’t make my goal," said 12-year-old Savannah Armstrong. “I just hope I don’t get sick.”

Curtis Kearns worried there are too many people who don’t know about the closures. He said the advisory signs posted aren’t enough to warn people of the danger lurking in the water.

“I walked up here yesterday within 100 feet of the signs. There were about 40 people, not one person saw the sign. I walked up and asked them," he said.

His suggestion? A flag system.

“Keep the sign. Put the flag where the sign is," Kearns said. "Very simple. It’s a no-brainer to me.”

Robbie Wilbur with MDEQ said previously, flags had been incorporated along with advisory signs in Harrison County; however, the flags were stolen and/or vandalized.

Kearns is also worried this won’t be the last of problems for these waters. Some believe algae blooms such as this are the direct result of the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

“To me, this is worse than BP. BP you could clean up. The only thing that’s going to clean this up is the good Lord and a tropical storm," he said.

Until the waters are safe again, Armstrong and her family will have to make the best of the situation.

“Eh, me and mama, we got it covered. You can still have fun at the beach. You don’t have to get in the water, because once you have your family with you, you can do all kinds of stuff," she said.

The samples were analyzed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Anyone who has been exposed to the water should wash with soap and water. There’s no time frame on when the beaches could reopen.

More information about the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program and the location of beach sampling stations is available at: http://opcgis.deq.state.ms.us/beaches

To receive beach advisories directly, fill out a contact form to join a public group email list, text “MDEQbeach” to 95577, or follow MDEQ on Twitter at @MDEQ.

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