Toxic Water: Enforcing 'no swimming' orders on Treasure Coast

Busy holiday weekend on waterways expected

STUART, Fla. - It is expected to be a busy weekend along the Treasure Coast, despite continued warnings about toxic water.

The advisories have been posted for weeks. But some say that enforcement of the 'no swimming' order at Sandsprit Park and elsewhere may be up to the public.

Charter fishing boat captain Chris Fowler pondered how this holiday weekend could turn out for those who disregard the toxic water warnings.

"I'm sure there will be people out there," said Fowler, who lives in Jensen Beach. But I won't be out there." Fowler said he opted to jump into the water at the Stuart sandbar two years ago. "The last time I was in the water when there was a bacteria advisory, I got staph infection in my foot," he said.

High bacteria levels will keep the sandbar off-limits to swimmers through Labor Day weekend and beyond. Fowler and Treasure Coast law enforcement say health problems can easily be avoided.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard will be out conducting safety checks and watching for impaired boaters. But heeding the warnings to avoid contact with the potentially dangerous water is largely the responsibility of the public.

Neal Kaplan of Stuart said he will be on the water with his friends and family; certainly not in it. "There's always risk takers and those who just don't listen and don't care," said Kaplan.

Fowler said he learned his lesson in a very painful way. "I got in the water, which you're not really supposed to do so it was kind of my fault," he said.

Recent tests on the sandbar came back with "good quality" results. However, that is not enough for the health department to lift its no swimming advisory yet. Authorities want more consistent "good results" before that band is lifted.




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