Hancock County

4 more beaches close in Biloxi, Ocean Springs. Hancock County creates new system to warn public.

Algae bloom is closing Mississippi Coast beaches

A green-blue algae is blooming in the Mississippi Sound, fueled by the Mississippi River fresh water filled with sediments. That algae can cause major health risks and adds to the issues caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway.
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A green-blue algae is blooming in the Mississippi Sound, fueled by the Mississippi River fresh water filled with sediments. That algae can cause major health risks and adds to the issues caused by the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway.

As green-blue algae swirls in the Mississippi Sound, twelve beaches across Hancock and Harrison County remain closed to the public.

But despite the closures, people can be seen swimming and standing in the affected waters.

The algae can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality advises that those exposed wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas.

Hancock County has taken a new step to increase awareness for locals and visitors by adopting a new flag system to warn beachgoers of any water hazards.

District 3 Supervisor Blaine LaFontaine said in a Facebook post that the new system will have “appropriate signage and designated locations” along the affected beaches.

“These events with our water quality are a result of the unprecedented amount of freshwater intrusion in our body of water from the Bonnet Carré Spillway,” LaFontaine said. “The frequency of these events over the last several years and historic event that is occurring means we have to prepare and communicate to protect public health and safety.”

On Monday, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new flag system. The warning system will have four new flags:

Green: Low hazard, meaning safe to swim.

Yellow: Moderate hazard reported from MDEQ

Red: High hazard, advising the public to stay out of the water.

Double Red: Water closed for public use.

On Tuesday evening, the MDEQ announced four more beaches have closed:

  • Edgewater Beach in Biloxi
  • Biloxi West Central Beach
  • Front Beach in Ocean Springs
  • Shearwater Beach in Ocean Springs

MDEQ also issued a water contact advisory for part of the Jourdan River in Hancock County from the Interstate 10 bridge to the mouth of the river into St. Louis Bay.

Closures remain in effect for almost all all beaches west of Biloxi in Harrison and Hancock counties. For the latest updates on the closures, check MDEQ’s website, http://opcgis.deq.state.ms.us/beaches.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin closing the Bonnet Carré later this month, but the effects of the spillway’s historic two openings in 2019 is expected to bring long-term effects to the Coast.

The spillway opening is being blamed for high mortality rates of dolphins, oysters and other aquatic life, as well as the algae blooms plaguing Louisiana and Mississippi waters.

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Alyssa Newton is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a background in television, radio and print. She’s originally from Dothan, Alabama and has a journalism degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Her passion lies in storytelling, news, sports and a strong espresso.
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