Constance, Holly, Hackberry and Rutherford beaches, all in Cameron Parish, are the first beaches to have “swimming advisories” posted as the Department of Health kicks off its annual statewide BEACH Monitoring Program.
Each of these beaches was found to have unacceptable levels of bacteria in the water. The high bacteria count was discovered during routine weekly monitoring and testing of the coastal waters.
LDH public health workers test water samples from each location on a weekly basis, monitoring bacteria levels to determine whether the water is safe for swimming. If high bacteria levels are detected, LDH will issue a media advisory, and a swim advisory sign will be posted near the shoreline, advising beachgoers to refrain from swimming until bacteria levels are in compliance.
Health officials will continue testing the water at these locations and will advise the public when bacteria levels are back in compliance. However, the public should be aware that water bodies are never completely risk-free and there is always a slight risk of bacterial contamination.
Bruce Champion is the LDH Program Manager for the BEACH Monitoring Program. He advises swimmers and water sports enthusiasts to start checking for swim advisory signs at Louisiana marine beaches.
“This public awareness effort is now underway for this spring and summer,” he said. “The BEACH Monitoring Program provides citizens with bacteriological water quality information so that they can make more informed decisions about swimming or wading in the water.”
The BEACH Monitoring Program is in place at 13 selected coastal beaches. The program monitors bacteria levels at these locations from May through October.
High bacteria levels can occur because of runoff following a storm, area livestock and wildlife or human sewage. These bacteria indicate the possible presence of disease-causing organisms that can cause a sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping or fever. Swallowing the water or dunking your head underwater increases the risk of illness.
Swimming advisories are NOT a closure of the beach or other facilities at that beach location. All areas remain open for boating and land-based activities when a swim advisory is in effect. The advisories will be lifted once further testing shows water bacteria levels are acceptably lowered.
The Louisiana Department of Health – Office of Public Health also advises people to BE AWARE that almost all water bodies used for recreational purposes are never risk-free. People are, therefore, advised to swim at their own risk.
The Louisiana BEACH Monitoring Program is a partnership between the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Office of State Parks, Cameron Parish Police Jury, The Town of Grand Isle, Lafourche Parish Police Jury and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The BEACH Monitoring Program began in 2004 at Cypremort, Fontainebleau and Grand Isle State Parks and then expanded in 2005 to include Fourchon, Holly Beach, Hackberry, Rutherford, Martin, Dung, Little Florida, Gulf Breeze, Grand Isle and Constance beaches.
For more information on the program or to check the status of monitoring at the different locations, please visit www.ophbeachmonitoring.com.