People are being advised to think twice before swimming on the bayfront in Bradenton Beach.
Dangerous levels of enterococcus — a bacteria commonly found in human and animal feces — were found in three tests taken along the Sarasota Bay waterfront at Bridge Street and Bay Drive South over the past two weeks, according to a Feb. 14 news release from the nonprofit Suncoast Waterkeeper.
One sample discovered more than 24,000 colony-forming units per liter, an estimate for the number of bacteria capable of reproducing in the sample. Other samples reached 1,670 and 4,884 cfu/L.
The Florida Department of Health regards enterococcus levels exceeding 70 cfu/L as unsafe for human contact, so the samples ranged from 24-340 times the threshold. The DOH posts a no-swim advisory if one of the public beaches it monitors tests higher than 70 cfu/L.
The tested area is located at the base of the Historic Bridge Street Pier at the end of Bridge Street, which also is near the anchorage in the waters to the south and the Bridge Tender Inn ashore.
“We are aware we had a problem, and we are about to start testing ourselves, so we can get to the bottom of it,” Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said in the release. “You know we believe in the importance of clean, healthy waters. We have the clam project and living shoreline in progress. We just didn’t know it was this bad.”
Suncoast is a nonprofit that tests water quality in 11 locations other than the public beaches the DOH monitors weekly to cover “other areas used recreationally that are representative of our inshore coastal waters,” according to the release.
The nonprofit uses Palmetto-based Benchmark Enviroanalytic Laboratory to analyze samples.
“We are not pointing fingers here,” Suncoast Waterkeeper Andy Mele wrote. “We are concerned that there could be a public health program, and we will be working with the Manatee County DOH and the Bradenton Beach government to help identify the sources and resolve the problem.”