Pet waste may be cause of Bird Key Park closure

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SARASOTA COUNTY - County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for a waterfront park popular with pet owners.

Bird Key Park is located 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.  The team determined that pet owners have not been picking up after their pets.

They say that 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.

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.

ABC 7's Todd Dunn is following this story and will have a full report tonight on ABC 7 News.

My name is Scott.