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'No swim' advisory lifted for Sarasota County beaches

Testing results showed satisfactory results Saturday, Aug. 13.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Three beaches in Sarasota County are safe to swim in after they were placed under a "no swim" advisory earlier this week.

The advisory has been lifted for Siesta Key Beach, North Lido Beach and Lido Casino, the Department of Health in Sarasota County reported on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Earlier in the week, the Florida Department of Health found a hefty amount of enterococcus bacteria outside the acceptable limits at the beaches, prompting the "no swim advisory."

Additionally, a "no swim" advisory issued on July 28 for other Sarasota County waterways has also been lifted. These waterways include Bird Key/Ringling Causeway, Venice Fishing Pier and Brohard Beach.

The beaches remained open, however wading, swimming and water recreation were not recommended under the advisory, the DOH reports.

"Some bacteria are naturally present in the environment," the department said in a news release. "However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found a link between health and water quality."

Earlier this month, beaches in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough counties fell under a "no swim advisory."

The presence of enterococcus bacteria comes from a variety of factors, health officials say. This includes pet waste, livestock, birds, land-dwelling and marine wildlife, stormwater runoff, and human sewage. However, there haven't been any sewage spills reported within one mile of the beaches listed in the past two weeks. Local environmental experts said the high level of bacteria being detected at the beach is likely from a combination of things — including feces from nesting birds and decomposing seaweed along the shoreline.

"It's not overly concerning if it's from decomposing seaweed, but it's certainly worthwhile staying out of the water if you're immunocompromised or if you're older," Dave Tomasko of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program said.

Tomasko said the high nutrient footprint feeds the algal blooms that are now decomposing and creating the bacterial presence. However, he says the biggest culprit for our area is stormwater runoff.

"All the grass clippings, all the dog poop people might not pick up, all the overfertilized lawns, all that stuff that washes into the bay creates a pulse of nutrients and gets us a lot more algae than we would have before humans were in such abundance here," Tomasko said.

RELATED: 'No swim' advisories lifted for Pasco County coastal beaches

"When these bacteria are found at high levels in recreational waters, there is a risk that some people may become ill," DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham said in a statement. "People, especially those who are very young, elderly, or who have a weak immune system that swallow water while swimming can get stomach or intestinal illnesses. If water contacts a cut or sore, people can get infections or rashes."

Under a "no swim" advisory, shellfish, like crabs and shrimp, collected in the immediate area of the beaches is not safe to eat, health officials say. Finfish caught live and healthy can still be eaten though. 

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County conducted a resampling of the beaches Thursday, Aug. 11, and in an update Friday afternoon the samples came back unsatisfactory before Saturday's update. For more information and updates on bacterial testing, click here.

RELATED: FDOH issues harmful blue-green algae alert for Hillsborough River

RELATED: 'No swim' advisories still in effect for these Tampa Bay-area beaches

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