SARASOTA, FLA. -- Staff with the Sarasota County Health Department posted “No Swim” advisory signs Friday morning at Bird Key Park after a water quality check found high levels of enteric bacteria present that can cause sickness.
“You can have gastrointestinal distress, you might have some vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes depending on what it is you can get some rashes,” explained Kathy Meaux, an environmental specialist with Sarasota County. Part of her job is investigating the source of the harmful bacteria like enteric.
“We have a team that comes out to do a through inspection of the area to first rule out there is a sewage spill, which we did in this case, and then in the absence of a sewage spill, we look for other potential sources.”
Enteric bacteria can come from a variety of natural and man-made sources and Meaux found two potential causes, the first being a large amount of algae in the seaweed that accumulated along the shore.
“It is in the state of decomposition, there are a lot of organisms in there that are dying and you may have noticed there is a slight order to it.”
She said the second source of the bacteria is due to irresponsible pet owners who used the approved dog park on Bird Key.
“We found large amounts of pet waste and it is obvious that people aren’t picking up after there pets,” Meaux says.
“This is one of the only beaches around here that dogs can actually come so people should be cleaning up after their pets,” said Amanda Millace.
Pet owner Katherine Hester wishes all pet owners would pick up after their pets so that a few will not ruin it for the rest. “When I think of the consequences that maybe this will be closed down for pets, that would be a shame,” she says.
While some people took their chances in the water others heeded “no swim” advisory and had their own advisory for irresponsible pet owners.
“Along with owning a pet comes accountability and responsibility for what that pet does,” said Frank Scotti.
The health department took a new sample of the water Friday morning and will lift the advisory when the bateria is back to a safe level.
The Sarasota County Health Department checks the water quality of all the area beaches weekly to ensure they are safe for public use.