'No Swim' advisory issued for Bird Key Park

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SARASOTA COUNTY - County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for Bird Key Park on the west side of the Ringling Causeway in Sarasota.

The "No Swim" advisory is due to elevated levels of enterococci (enteric) bacteria, some of which are naturally present in the environment, on Thursday, July 10.

Enteric bacteria can come from a variety of natural and man-made sources including pet waste, livestock, wildlife, stormwater runoff, and human sewage from failed septic systems and sewage spills. The county's response team has ruled out sewage spills and determined that the cause is likely due to natural sources.

At Bird Key Park (west side of the Ringling Causeway), an approved dog park, the team determined that pet owners have not been picking up after their pets. Even though the pet waste stations were well-stocked with plastic bags for picking up the waste and garbage cans for disposal, large amounts of pet waste had been left along the beach in close proximity to the water's edge. Rainfall in the area produced stormwater flow that washes not only the pet waste, but other pollutants, including bacteria from birds and wildlife, into the bay and is likely a source. The team observed a heavy accumulation of decaying marine algae, which can also be a source of bacteria, in the water and along the shoreline.

This follows recent "no swim" advisories in Sarasota County including one in Nokomis Beach which was lifted two days ago, and one in Venice Beach in late June.

Signage advising the public not to swim or engage in water recreation at Bird Key Park Beach will remain in place until follow-up water testing results meet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recreational water safety standards. The results of follow-up water testing will be available on Saturday, July 11.

Testing has revealed bacteria levels within acceptable limits at all other area beaches.

Local health officials emphasize that people can still visit and enjoy the beach. However, residents and visitors are urged to take precautions by not wading or swimming in the water or engaging in water recreation at Bird Key Park Beach until the advisory is lifted.

In addition, shellfish such as crabs and shrimp collected in the immediate area of Bird Key Park should not be consumed. However, it is safe to fish and consume fin-fish from these waters.

For more information, visit https://ourgulfenvironment.scgov.net and click on water monitoring and then bacterial testing to check beach water testing results of area Gulf beaches.

Call 941-BEACHES (941-232-2437) or visit www.mote.org/beaches. Click on the same link to the mobile-friendly version of the beach conditions report.