Friday morning, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) removed water contact warnings Friday for all 21 standard beach segments as well as the four nonstandard segments that were issued August 6. Water contact warnings were also lifted for Pass Christian Harbor and the Long Beach Harbor.
MDEQ’s water sampling has followed a recognized protocol to determine the presence or bloom of a blue-green Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) at its beach monitoring stations and other locations. Recent results indicated that while a HAB was present and/or in bloom many of the cells of the algae were dying. Seeing a continuation in this trend, MDEQ moved to the toxicity testing phase of the protocol this week.
The results received today for water samples collected October 2 for toxicity testing for HAB were all below the EPA guidelines of 8 parts per billion for microcystin toxin. EPA’s Recommendations for Recreational Water Quality Criteria and Swimming Advisories were released May 22, 2019.
“Since monitoring first verified the presence of a Harmful Algal Bloom, our obligation has been to ensure the public’s health was protected. Today’s results are well below the threshold set to protect public health, and we are extremely pleased that we can lift the water contact warnings. We appreciate the partnership with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in researching and monitoring the HAB over the past several months,” said Gary Rikard, MDEQ Executive Director.
According to the National Park Service, there has been no observed evidence of the algae bloom impacting the barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. All beaches in the park are currently open. In addition, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resource’s sampling indicates that recreational and commercial fishing off-shore in Mississippi waters remains unaffected by the algal bloom and is safe for consumption.
The locations of the water contact warnings and the beach sampling stations can be found at http://opcgis.deq.state.ms.