Quite recently, all of Mississippi’s 21 beaches have been closed to swimming due to a rapidly growing bloom of blue-green toxic algae. These restrictions don’t affect vacationer’s ability to sunbathe or walk the beach, but it’s highly recommended that no human or their pets go swimming in the currently dangerous water. It’s also recommended that anyone that comes into contact with this toxic algae wash with soap as soon as possible, and to avoid eating any seafood that may have come from the affected areas.
To be exact, this algae is not actually algae, but rather cyanobacteria. Exposure to the skin can cause rashes, and accidental ingestion can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. For now, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has not detected dangerous levels of toxins from these cyanobacteria, but this could be change at a moment’s notice, which is why the department closed off all the beaches, and why they advise against eating any seafood that came from affected areas, since they are likely to have consumed these toxins.
However, this advisement against seafood is only important for the affected areas near Mississippi. The department is convinced that seafood from the rest of the Gulf is perfectly safe to eat. Many fishermen and businesses have found it simple enough to go further out into the Gulf where the water is cleaner and saltier.
A large reason for this sudden algae bloom is likely thanks to the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which has introduced an extreme amount of freshwater into the Mississippi coastline. How long it will take before this bloom dies down and the waters of Mississippi become clean and enjoyable again is unclear. However, it’s safe to assume that it will probably be several weeks before Mississippi’s 21 beaches are cleared for swimming again.
Whether or not the issue caused by the Bonnet Carre spillway will be addressed or mitigated is also unclear. However, it’s likely that the initial problem will only be temporary, or that the issues caused by the spillway will be fixed within a relatively brief timeframe, considering the major problems that it caused. Until then, Mississippi residents and southern vacationers alike will just have to stick to the pools.