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Swim advisories lifted

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Manatee County Environmental Health Services officials recently removed the water advisories warning swimmers for the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway and at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria about the high bacteria levels found in those waters.

EHS director Tom Larkin said marine water bacterial level indicators at both locations had dropped below the maximum allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A similar advisory for the north end of Coquina Beach was lifted three weeks ago.

Larkin said tests were performed twice at each location to ensure the bacteria levels “comply with those recommended by the EPA.”

The waters at all 10 testing sites in Manatee County are tested weekly for bacteria levels that could cause harm to swimmers.

Generally, enteric bacteria levels rise because of several factors, Larkin said, including human and animal waste and stormwater runoff that brings fertilizer and other waste products used on land into the waters.

The presence of high levels of bacteria in waters pose a risk to swimmers and people susceptible to disease, he said. Skin rashes and itching are not uncommon when bathing in waters with high bacteria levels, and the risk of infection also increases, Larkin said.

Bacteria levels often increase after heavy rainfall due to stormwater runoff, but pinpointing a specific reason for the increase in enteric bacteria is “beyond the reach of our testing equipment,” he said.

The federal government has the type of test equipment that can accurately determine where the bacteria came from, but such tests are expensive and lengthy, he explained.

Larkin said horses in the water on the north side of the Palma Sola Causeway are not the cause of any rise in bacteria levels.

However, many people allow their dogs to play in the water on both sides of the causeway. They are supposed to clean up after their dogs, but many people don’t, he suggested.

Water quality testing is funded by both federal and state funds.

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