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Date of Issue: July 29, 2005

Coquina closed because of foul water - reopens

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No swim warning
Flags at Coquina Beach last week spelled out the message that bathers are prohibited from entering the water. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
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Coquina Beach was closed to swimmers for two days last week because of concerns about high levels of potentially harmful bacteria in the waters, but reopened late Friday after test results showed acceptable bacteria levels.

Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles said the beach was closed after consultations with Manatee County Administrator Ernie Padgett and Director of Public Safety Karen Windon following the health department's warning.

"Our concern was for the health and safety of the public," said Moyles. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

While health advisories were posted at other county beaches such as Bayfront Park in Anna Maria, Coquina Beach was closed because it's the only beach with county lifeguards.

Another issue the county considered was the potential for a lawsuit if anyone developed a serious disease or infection after entering the contaminated water at a county-supervised beach.

Moyles said the high fecal coliform bacteria in the water could have been caused by the inordinately large number of birds eating the numerous dead fish that died as a result of the recent red tide and washed ashore. The birds defecate into the water and along the shore. With more birds than normal feeding along Coquina Beach, this probably raised the fecal bacteria count, he said.

Friday's test results showed the fecal coliform level had fallen to acceptable standards and the beach was reopened in time for the weekend .

Health advisories at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria and at Whitney Beach on Longboat Key were also lifted.