The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Beach Monitoring Program tests water at 25 beach sites along the Louisiana coast to determine whether the water quality meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria.
This program is part of the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000. The BEACH Act is an amendment to the Clean Water Act requiring all coastal states to develop programs for effective water quality monitoring and public notification at coastal recreational beaches.
DHH analyzes the beach water for enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria. These bacteria represent those commonly found in sewage pollution, and which could cause disease, infections or rashes. These analyses are performed on a weekly basis from May 1 through Oct. 31.
If bacteria levels are detected, DHH issues an advisory, and swim advisory signs posted near the shoreline are opened to advise beachgoers to refrain from swimming until bacteria levels are in compliance with federal guidelines. (About swimming advisories)
An advisory is NOT a closure of the beach or its facilities; rather it is an alert to the public about possible unhealthy water conditions. All areas remain open for boating, fishing and land-based activities. The advisory remains in effect until DHH samples show water bacterial levels are acceptably lowered.
High bacteria levels can occur because of runoff following a storm, area livestock and wildlife or human sewage. These bacteria indicate the possible presence of disease-causing organisms that can cause sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping or fever. Swallowing the water or dunking your head underwater increases the risk of illness. This is especially important for the elderly, babies, small children and people who are chronically ill or have compromised immune systems.
Health officials test water at beach sites and will advise the public when bacteria levels are back in compliance. However, the public should be aware that there is always a slight risk of bacterial contamination. People are advised to swim at their own risk.
Click here to check for health advisories at Louisiana's beaches.