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Some Tampa Bay beaches are under a 'no swim' advisory. Is yours one of them?

A person and a child walk along a beach with storm clouds overhead.
Marc Haze
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WUSF News
High levels of bacteria have been found in local waterways, leaving Florida Health Department officials beaches are "no swim" advisories

Heavy rain and decaying algae along shorelines could be to blame for some of the harmful bacteria, officials say.

Several beaches in the greater Tampa Bay region earned recent "no swim" advisories from the Florida Department of Health.

Recent advisories have been connected to high levels of an intestinal bacteria that can be harmful to humans. The presence of the bacteria usually indicates fecal pollution from storm water runoff, pets, wildlife or human sewage.

The Healthy Florida Beaches program offers a searchable database where you can see the latest water quality status and advisories for beaches in every county. Once on the site, look for the county you want to search, and click on the gray "beaches" tab. Some of the counties have several pages of beaches, so be sure to scroll through to find what you need.

And remember, the status is likely to change, for the better or worse. Updates are made daily or weekly depending on the county.

Map of the state of Florida and a list of Counties
Florida Department of Health
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Kent Macci, the health department environmental manager in Sarasota County, said the bacteria can cause disease, infections or rashes in swimmers with weak immune systems.

"We don't close our beaches. We're just posting advisories and people are free to make their decisions as to whether or not they want to swim," he said. "But as the health department we want to give people the information they need to make the decisions that they feel are best for them."

Macci said the bacterial outbreak in Sarasota likely has to do with decaying algae on shorelines which releases the bacteria.

But heavy rain over the past few weeks which flush out waste in yards, streets and storm sewers may also be to blame, he added.

"We've found nothing out of the ordinary, from a human standpoint, that would have caused this," he said.

Jack Prator is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for summer of 2022.