Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused extensive damage and limited accessibility to the majority of beaches throughout coastal Louisiana, including many of the 13 locations in the Louisiana Beach Monitoring Program. As a result, this year the program will test the water quality at only three beaches -- Grand Isle Beach, Grand Isle State Park and Cypremort Point State Park.
The Louisiana BEACH Monitoring Program is a partnership between the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Office of State Parks, along with Cameron Parish Police Jury, the Town of Grand Isle and the Lafourche Parish Police Jury. The program has monitored bacteria levels and water quality at coastal beaches since 2004.
LDH public health workers will test water samples only from the three locations listed above on a weekly basis, monitoring bacteria levels to determine whether 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.
Please note that any swim advisory issued is 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.
At all other beach sites that were monitored in 2005 (Constance Beach, Fontainebleau State Park, Fourchon Beach, Gulf Breeze Beach, Hackberry Beach, Holly Beach, Little Florida Beach, Long Beach, Martin Beach, and Rutherford Beach), swim usage is expected to be low because of limited accessibility, storm debris and continuing effects of the hurricanes. Accordingly, swimming advisories will not be provided for these locations.
The public is also reminded that a general “Swim at Your Own Risk” advisory is in place for all of Louisiana’s public waterways.
LDH will continue testing water at that location 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.
High bacteria levels can happen because of stormwater runoff, area livestock and wildlife or human sewage. These bacteria indicate the possible presence of disease-causing organisms that can cause sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping or fever. Swallowing the water or dunking your head underwater increases the risk of illness.
For more information on the program or to check the status of monitoring at the different locations, please visit www.ophbeachmonitoring.com.