Toxic Algae Cause Mississippi Beaches to Halt Water Activities

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. come in contact with (someone/something) / kʌm ɪn ˈkɒn tækt wɪθ / (idiom) – to touch someone or something

    People who came in contact with contaminated water suddenly experienced skin rashes.

  2. adverse / ædˈvɜrs / (adj) – bad or unfavorable

    The doctor warned that the medication may have adverse effects.

  3. proliferate / prəˈlɪf əˌreɪt / (v) – to quickly increase in number or amount

    The rainy season is causing mosquitoes to proliferate.

  4. thrive / θraɪv / (v) – to grow or develop

    The cactus plant thrives better in dry areas like deserts.

  5. breeding ground / ˈbri dɪŋ graʊnd / (n) – a setting where it is suitable for something to grow or develop

    Shallow waters are a great breeding ground for pond plants.


Read the text below.

Beaches in Mississippi, United States, have been closed down for swimming because of toxic algae.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality recently ordered the closure of 21 beaches to the public. Apart from swimming, other water activities have been prohibited because of harmful algal bloom (HAB)—the rapid and uncontrollable formation of toxic plant organisms in the sea.

Authorities warned that coming in contact with toxic algae may cause health problems, such as skin rashes and stomach flu, in humans. Much worse, the bacteria from algae can have adverse effects on the liver and the brain. They can enter the food chain through contaminated animals that humans consume, including fish and other seafood.

The toxic algae proliferated because of the flow of fresh floodwaters from the Bonnet Carre / ˈbɒniː ˈkɛriː / Spillway in Louisiana. The spillway had to be opened to keep the Mississippi River from rising and flooding the surrounding urban areas, which experienced an immensely wet winter. As a result, the large amounts of freshwater coming from the spillway lowered the ocean’s salt content, leading the algae to thrive in the waters. With plenty of sunlight, the Mississippi beaches became a breeding ground for the toxic algae.

Although there are warnings against swimming and getting in contact with the water, authorities said that the beaches’ sanded areas are safe. They encouraged beachgoers to continue doing non-water activities on the beach.

In addition, experts assured the public that the seafood from Mississippi beaches is closely monitored and safe for consumption. According to the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the seafood in the area is undergoing daily testing.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Is it a good idea to encourage beachgoers to continue doing non-water activities on the beach despite the threat of toxic algae in the waters? Why or why not?
• Aside from prohibiting swimming and other water activities, what other measures should authorities take to ensure public safety? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Do you think that daily testing and monitoring of seafood are enough to ensure food safety? Explain.
• Given that the seafood is labeled safe for consumption, would you be willing to buy seafood products from Mississippi? Why or why not?