Are you thinking about hitting the beach this weekend in Tampa Bay? You should reconsider, or at the very least, be more selective about where you decide to go, as the Florida Department of Health (DOH) has issued a no-swim advisory for Ben T. Davis Beach due to high levels of fecal bacteria in the water.
The bacteria in question is enterococci, a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals, including humans. The presence of enterococci in beach water is often caused by natural stormwater runoff, but can also be a result of direct contact with the feces of pets and wildlife, or human sewage.
Waterways polluted with more than 70.5 per 100 milliliters are what ultimately results in an advisory, as is the case for Ben T. Davis Beach as listed by routine monitoring records released by the Florida Department of Health's Healthy Beaches program.
Other beaches in the area to receive recent no-swim advisories include Picnic Island North, Simmons Park Beach, Bahia Beach, and Cypress Point Park North. While those advisories have since been cleared, Ben T. Davis Beach seems to be down on its luck, as fecal bacteria has impacted its shores for several weeks — with records showing an advisory in place for Ben T. Davis Beach since July 26, 2023.
The issued advisory recommends that residents and visitors not swim in the water, instead, urging them to consider the potential risks that could come with visiting.
What exactly are those risks?
According to a publication in the National Library of Medicine, enterococci bacteria exposure can pose a number of risks to your health, including, but not limited to, UTIs, bacteremia, infective endocarditis, meningitis, intra-abdominal infections, rashes, and infections of wounds.
The advisory will remain in effect for the following week when the beach will then be re-sampled. According to Florida DOH in Hillsborough County, they've conducted beach water quality tests at nine locations every two weeks since August 2000, and weekly since August 2022.
To check for beach water advisories near you, check the Florida Department of Health's Beach Water Quality Page, where you can search beaches by county.
Article by Rachael Volpe