Five St. Pete waterfront parks test high for bacteria

Posted at 7:44 PM, Jul 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-07 19:44:51-04

Summer rainstorms are causing big problems at swimming areas across Pinellas County. The rain rinses bird and dog poop into beaches and can make people sick.

On Friday, five St Pete swimming, boating and fishing areas had advisories for high bacteria levels. Spa Beach, Fossil Park Lake, Salt Creek, Crisp Park and the Broadwater South Canal. 

We found plenty of people fishing, jet skiing and swimming in the closed areas.

Some people question if St. Pete is doing enough to warn you about what’s in the water. Most of the waterfront parks have at least one sign warning people that getting in the water is not recommended, but some of the signs aren’t as obvious. 

At Lassing Park, which is often shut down for bacteria, just three signs dot the entire 14 acre waterfront.

Looks can also be deceiving. The turquoise blue water at Spa Beach looks perfectly clear, but tests on July 6 show it’s polluted with harmful bacteria.

If you’re not paying attention, you could walk past the signs and jump in.

Kathleen Ternes, who lives near Lassing Park has seen it first hand, “I’ve seen people walk right by it and not even realize it.” Ternes often walks up to families to warn them about what could be lurking in the water. “I tell them ‘I don’t know if you guys know this, but the water is in really bad shape right now.’ They were super grateful but it’s scary.”

The bacteria can make you sick. The rain washes fertilizer, dog and bird poop into the water, causing bacteria levels to spike.

Karey Seay agrees that more signs are necessary. “They should have signs up and down the beach letting people know not to get in the water.”

St. Pete leaders tell ABC Action News they don’t plan to add more signs, but they are testing swimming and boating areas in the city more often. Each area is tested weekly. If a beach fails, it’s tested daily until it passes again. 

You can also check out this interactive map on St. Pete’s website:

Ternes knows not everyone will do their homework, so she’ll keep up her patrol. “It’s scary. Dogs are down there, kids are down there. Who knows how gross it is.”