SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- Sarasota County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for Nokomis Beach due to elevated levels of enterococci bacteria.
Signage advising the public not to swim or engage in water recreation at Nokomis 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 Friday, July 4.
Just last week, a similar advisory was issued for Venice Beach, and was lifted after two days.
The Nokomis Beach warning came as a surprise of many already in the water Thursday afternoon.
“When we came here maybe two hours ago, the flag was yellow." Visiting from Pennsylvania for the busy 4th of July weekend, Alex Derosa says the water was a little rough but he was enjoying the swim, when suddenly…"We were in the water maybe five or ten minutes ago and my sister said ‘Alex, it's a red flag.’"
Many didn't even notice at first. "There are people still in there, and they don't seem too concerned."
Kathy McLain had just finished bobbing around. "It is a concern. I've heard it causes GI distress. That is the last thing you want on vacation."
It's possible the bacteria has already moved on. The tainted samples were taken Wednesday, and more were taken Thursday, but results from those samples won’t be available until Friday.
For the current advisory, the county's response team has ruled out sewage spills and determined that the cause is likely due to natural sources. The team observed a higher than normal accumulation of marine algae along the shoreline which can be a source of bacteria. Recent rains which tend to wash accumulated pollutants, including bacteria from birds, wildlife, and pet waste into local waterways could also be a factor. Another possible natural source that could contribute to the elevated bacteria levels are higher surf conditions which can churn up sand from the bottom and affect water quality.
Testing has revealed bacteria levels within acceptable limits at all other area beaches, including nearby North Jetty Beach to the south, and Turtle Beach to the north.
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 the Nokomis Beach until the advisory is lifted.
In addition, shellfish such as crabs and shrimp collected in the immediate area of Nokomis Beach should not be consumed. However, it is safe to fish and consume fin-fish from these waters.