Beach to Bayou - April/May 2018
- story by Lisa Monti
Our beach season gets underway well before summer officially arrives in June. All it takes is warm springtime weather to draw crowds of sunbathers and swimmers to the sand and shoreline.
To help make sure that beachgoers know if it’s safe to go in the water, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Beach Monitoring Program collects water samples at 21 locations from Lakeshore to Pascagoula.
Four of the testing locations are in Hancock County: near Lakeshore Drive from Silver Slipper Casino to Poinset, at the entrance to Buccaneer State Park, near Vacation Lane in Waveland and at St. Charles Street in Bay St. Louis.
Beach to Bayou
What they’re looking for is Enterococci bacteria, which Upton calls “an indicator organism” that signals pollution caused by stormwater runoff, wildlife, boating waste or sewer overflows. High winds and heavy rainfall can also increase bacteria levels in our coastal waters. That’s why the Beach Task Force recommends not swimming during or within 24 hours of significant rainfall.
Below: the Four Hancock County Monitoring Stations
click on the individual maps for the latest report
Click here to see all Mississippi monitoring stations
You can still enjoy the sand beach section but, MDEQ says, you swim at your own risk.
The advisory is lifted after two daily samples show acceptable levels.
Very seldom does MDEQ issue beach closures, Upton said. “We do from time to time have sewage releases into the Sound from infrastructure failures. Then we will immediately issue an advisory and out of an abundance of caution, we make the advisory area probably bigger than it should be and assess the impact and monitor it daily until the threat is no longer there.”
Upton said MDEQ puts great emphasis on its beach monitoring public notification system and website which contains current and historic data going back to 2000 for its sampling locations. The public can sign up to receive email notifications, automatic text messages and Twitter blasts about the beach advisories.
“The whole emphasis for beach monitoring is to make sure beachgoers know the condition of the water they will be swimming in,” he said.
To receive beach advisories, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, text "MDEQbeach" to 95577, or follow MDEQ on Twitter: @MDEQ.