It’s OK to swim at Bayfront Park again.
The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County Sept. 5 lifted the no-swim advisory for the north end of the Anna Maria park after issuing the warning Aug. 30 based on two tests showing elevated levels of enterococci bacteria — a indicator for fecal matter— in the water.
Fecal matter from animal or human waste can spill into Tampa Bay waterways through sewer-line breaks, leaching septic systems, lift station failures, stormwater runoff and other events.
Contact with the bacteria poses an increased risk of rashes, urinary tract infections and other diseases when the enterococci levels exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 70.05 colony-forming unit standard.
An Aug. 26 test measured 135 colony-forming units in 100 milliliters of water. Two days later, 238 units were found in a sample.
DOH advisories are lifted after the EPA standard is met by subsequent testing.
The last advisory for Bayfront Park occurred in October 2018, according to Tom Larkin, Manatee County DOH environmental manager.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also monitors the waters to ensure discharges are stopped “as quickly as possible” and to determine corrective actions, according to spokeswoman Shannon Herbon.
Asked about the high levels of enterococci bacteria Aug. 26-28 at Bayfront Park, Herbon said in a Sept. 6 email to The Islander: “We have no record of any nearby wastewater discharges that would have impacted Tampa Bay near the north end of Bayfront Park during the time frame you requested.
“As I previously mentioned, enterococci are found in the fecal matter of all warm-blooded animals and birds, so it’s possible that the elevated levels are from other sources.”
For more information, go online to the DOH website at www.floridahealth.gov and select environmental health and beach water quality tabs or call 941-714-7593.