HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Hancock County is taking steps to ensure that beachgoers know when there’s a possible threat to their health and safety lurking offshore.
Monday, county supervisors formally adopted new rules for beach signs and flags. The new flag system is in response to residents’ and visitors’ complaints that they didn’t know about recent water warnings connected to the current blue green algae bloom.
Right now, 12 areas of the beach in Hancock and Harrison counties are closed to swimming and fishing.
Green Flags will indicate the conditions are safe. The Green Flag will show water is safe, and hazards are at a minimum. However, please use caution as hazards always exist when swimming.
Yellow Flags indicate moderate hazards, and public should use caution in water. The yellow flag is deployed when MDEQ issues notices regarding water quality and can be placed in designated stations.
Red Flags indicate high hazards exist. The public is advised to stay out of the water at this time. These are deployed based upon risks that pose a threat to public health and safety.
Double Red Flags indicate water is closed and not available for public use.
The simplicity of the system is one of its biggest advantages, according to the board of supervisors.
“Absolutely, it was unanimous and our EMA office was excited," said supervisor Blaine LaFontaine. “Giving them the tools to do their job and to better communicate... It’s not a huge financial commitment and at the end of the day, it is just about communication regarding public health and safety. That is our job and just being proactive to implement that and communicate effectively.”
The board aren’t the only ones pleased with the impending system. Tourists and locals are also eager to see the new flag system happen.
Kaitlyn Bingham is visiting from Louisiana and heard about the algae issues online. While there are already some signs up, she agreed the flags would further help communicate the possible dangers in the water.
“I think it would be a great way to communicate with the public, either local people or tourists, about the dangers of the algae and the safety of the water," said Bingham.
“I think it is a great idea," said Bay St. Louis resident Fahey House. “I come down here frequently either to pick up trash or to let my dogs run, and to know whether or not they can go near the water would be a great help."
The board of supervisors hopes to implement the plan within the next three weeks. Once in place, the EMA and sand beach crews will be tasked with changing the flags.
A total of 11 locations have been identified for the flag system. Six of those match the current MDEQ monitoring stations. The others were picked for their high visibility to beachgoers. They are:
- Location 1: Lakeshore/Lower Bay Road (MDEQ Station)
- Location 2: Buccaneer State Park Beach (MDEQ Station)
- Location 3: Nicholson/Waveland
- Location 4: Coleman Avenue
- Location 5: Bay Oaks/Bay St. Louis
- Location 6: Washington Street/St. Charles (MDEQ Station)
- Location 7: St. Claire/Vacation Lane (MDEQ Station)
- Location 8: St. Stanislaus Beach
- Location 9: Chapel Hill/Bay Bridge
- Location 10: Bay Waveland Yacht Club/ North Beach
- Location 11: Cedar Point Boat Launch