Despite the posted warnings, people are visiting the beaches in Hancock County.

While Hurricane Barry churned the waters along the Gulf Coast, it did little to help alleviate the ongoing algal bloom situation.

Today marks four weeks since warnings were issued in Waveland and Bay St. Louis on June 22 to stay out of the water. Cautions continued up the coast in the days and weeks following that, and now stretch from Lakeshore Beach to Pascagoula.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, through its Beach Monitoring Program, continues to maintain water contact warnings across the Gulf Coast for all 21 sampling stations in all of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

“Ongoing sampling this week by the MDEQ indicates that a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) remains in our near-shore waters along the beaches,” said. Gov. Phil Bryant. “We encourage people to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to these warnings. As a reminder, these warnings issued by MDEQ refer to water contact only and do not prohibit or restrict recreational use of the sand portion of any beach.”

An algal bloom is the rapid growth of algae on the surface of the water. The algae can cause such symptoms as rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

MDEQ also issued a water contact warning on July 2 for a segment of the Jourdan River in Hancock County from the I-10 bridge to the mouth of the river into St. Louis Bay. MDEQ recommends that people avoid activities such as swimming, wading and fishing. People should also avoid eating fish or anything else caught in this section of the river.

No algae bloom, however, has been observed near the barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, according to the National Park Service. All beaches in the park remain open. 

The warnings from the MDEQ advise people and pets to avoid water contact such as swimming or wading where the blue-green HAB is present because exposure can be harmful.

MDEQ advises that those exposed wash with soap and water. MDEQ and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources are working together on the ongoing investigation of identifying the presence of HABs.

“The water samples tested by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have not shown toxin levels high enough to warrant concern for consumption of local seafood,” said MDMR Executive Director Joe Spraggins. “MDMR is continuing to test water and fish samples to ensure seafood safety in Mississippi waters.

“MDMR is advising fishermen to avoid catching seafood in waters where algae is present. Recreational and commercial fishing offshore in Mississippi waters remains unaffected by the algal bloom and is safe for consumption. The MDMR is committed to frequent sampling to ensure the safety for fresh locally caught seafood.”

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