Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Areas Safe after Health Alert

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beaches Areas Safe after Health Alert

Article excerpt

Byline: Beau Halton, Shorelines editor

A one-day health advisory was lifted Saturday after health officials had found bacteria indicating human or animal waste in the ocean water at two locations along Jacksonville's beaches.

Officials speculated the bacteria came from cruise ships dumping off the coast.

"But we have no proof of that; it's just a logical guess," said James Salzer, an environmental supervisor with the Duval County Health Department who worked on the ocean samples. He and Beaches officials said since there are no sewage outlets at the beach and since there hasn't been any rainfall to cause runoff for nearly two weeks, the cruise ship theory is the most probable.

Last Thursday, Health Department officials found enterococci bacteria in water samples taken from the ocean at the foot of Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach and 15th Street in Atlantic Beach. They had also found the bacteria, a saltwater-resistant form of fecal bacteria, in samples taken from those locations April 15, Salzer said.

The findings represented the first unsafe levels of bacteria or other organisms found in Jacksonville ocean water samples for years, he said. The Health Department tests the ocean water at 10 locations every Tuesday, he said. The other locations had satisfactory ratings last week.

"But we tested again on Friday, and everything came up with excellent ratings, so we're back to normal," Salzer said. "That's why we called off the advisory a day later."

Atlantic Beach Public Safety Director David Thompson said last week he called off lifeguard training because of the advisory and posted signs to keep swimmers out of the water.

"This is my 20th year here, and this is the first time I can remember us getting a notice of this nature, so I suspect it's a one-time thing and it will be lifted," Thompson said. …

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