The Florida Department of Health in Manatee takes bi-weekly water samples in bay areas around Bradenton and sends them to a laboratory in Palmetto called Benchmark Enviroanalytical.
In the last two years, not a single test the local lab did came back with levels of bacteria high enough to call for a swimming ban.
But last Thursday, Benchmark confirmed that a sample from Palma Sola Beach South approximately 1,000 feet west of 81st Street West on the south side of the causeway showed an elevated level of a bacteria called enterococci.
We understand that people and their pets love to have fun there. However, just for the safety of both owner and pet, we are asking people to heed the warnings and stay out of the water there.
Thomas Iovino, Florida Department of Health, speaking of Palma Sola Beach
On Monday, Department of Health officials immediately put up signs at Palma Sola for the county’s first “No Swim Advisory” since 2014.
Two years ago a sewer main leak into the bay ramped up the same bacteria, leading to posted areas for two weeks, said Thomas Iovino, a Florida Department of Health in Manatee spokesman.
The Palma Sola Beach South water will be tested again on Feb. 6 and results will be available on Feb. 8. The advisory will be in effect until the water meets Environmental Protection Agency safety guidelines, Iovino added.
Enterococci are normally found in a person’s gastrointestinal tract, either gut or bowel and are harmless there, Iovino said.
But if another person is exposed to the bacteria on their skin or through ingestion, enterococci can cause an upset stomach, infection or rash, Iovino added.
Enterococci is not the same as fecal coliform, which is also a bacteria from the intestines, Iovino said.
The Department of Health would not speculate on how the high level of this bacteria got into the water there but indicated the bacteria will eventually run out of nutrients and dissipate.
“We understand that people and their pets love to have fun there,” Iovino said of the impacted spot. “However, just for the safety of both owner and pet, we are asking people to heed the warnings and stay out of the water there.”
“If they have been in the water with their pet they need to wash themselves and the pet with soap and water, which takes care of the problem, and be alert to when we drop the warnings,” Iovino added.
Manatee County has conducted beach water quality monitoring since August 2002 through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program.