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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.