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Algae takes toll on coastal beaches

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Algae takes toll on coastal beaches
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(FEMA file) Biloxi Beach
FEMA

People on the gulf coast of Mississippi are being warned not to touch the water. From Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Ezra Wall has more.

Environmental officials are warning residents and visitors to Mississippi's Gulf Coast to stay out of the water, in spite of the oppressive heat. Toxic blooms of freshwater algae are contaminating salty waters of the Gulf in the Mississippi Sound. Steve Bailey is with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

"When it's in bloom it looks like green paint, very fluorescent green. And so that's typically freshwater algae, so we have a huge amount of fresh water in the Sound along with the shallow waters, plenty of sunlight. It was just perfect conditions for a huge bloom to occur," says Bailey.

Milton Segarra is CEO of the tourism group, Coastal Mississippi. He blames the algae blooms on all the water pouring toward the Gulf from the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana. Segarra says some businesses have been hurt by beach closures, but most have not.

"They suffered a reduction in business. For example, the Jet Ski rentals, obviously they had an impact. And some others that we have in the beach that requires people to go into the water. So those obviously were affected," says Segarra. "But the rest of the activities, no impact whatsoever."

As for when the toxic blooms of algae in the Mississippi sound might subside, the Department of Environmental Quality's Bailey says there's no way to know.