Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program

The Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program monitors a total of 22 beaches along over 40 miles of the Mississippi Gulf Coast shoreline for the presence of Enterococcus bacteria, which thrives in water contaminated with sewage or storm water runoff. Sampling and analysis of beach water quality is provided by the University of Southern Mississippi and Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

What is a beach advisory? How long does an advisory/closure last?

A beach advisory/closure is issued when bacteria numbers exceed a safe level and pose a risk to human health. When an advisory/closure is issued, water contact should be avoided such as swimming, wading, fishing, jet skiing, and other recreational activities in the water.

When samples indicate bacteria levels are high enough to trigger an advisory, the water at that beach will be re-sampled every twenty-four hours until levels fall within a safe range. An advisory/closure lasts at least 48 hours but may last longer until bacteria numbers return to levels that no longer pose a risk to human health.

What is the difference between an advisory and a closure of a beach?

A closure is issued for a section of a beach where there is a known source of pollution that poses a risk to human health. For example, a sewage line breaks near a beach monitoring station and raises the bacteria levels too high for human contact.

An advisory is usually issued due to more natural reasons that can cause high levels of bacteria. High winds and significant rainfall can elevate bacteria to an unsafe level for human contact.

What are the health risks associated with water contact at a section of beach under advisory/closure? How can I reduce my health risk?

MDEQ strongly recommends no water contact during an advisory/closure of a beach. The public can still enjoy the sand portion of the beach section under advisory, but MDEQ advises against getting into the water. If you come into contact with water contaminated with bacterial pollution, such as Enterococcus bacteria, you are at an increased risk of becoming ill. Pathogens associated with this type of pollution can cause ear, eye, skin, and respiratory infections; gastrointestinal illness, and more serious diseases such as meningitis and hepatitis.

Members of the public that are at the more risk to such illness are the very young, seniors, and people with compromised immune systems. Also, if you have an open cut or sore, you are more prone to get an infection. You can limit your risk by keeping your head above water and not ingesting any saltwater while swimming. It is also a good practice to shower after swimming.

Swimmers are reminded that the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has a standing recommendation that swimming not occur during or within 24 hours of a significant rainfall event.

To receive the most up-to-date information on beach advisories and closures, visit beaches.mdeq.ms.gov.