Gulf Oil Sickens Hundreds of Florida Swimmers

Authorities are 'winging it' on water safety
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2010 2:26 AM CDT
Updated Jul 2, 2010 7:56 AM CDT
Oil cleanup workers move absorbent booms off the beach as hundreds of people line up hand in hand as part of the Hands Across the Sand event in Pensacola Beach, Fla.    (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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(Newser) – Just when they thought it was safe to go back in the water, hundreds of swimmers reported feeling ill after braving the waves when Pensacola authorities lifted the "no swimming" flag. Local officials rejected EPA advice to close beaches and are instead relying on lifeguards to spot oil and on bathers to use common sense and not swim where they see oil, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Local authorities complain that tests to check whether water is safe take 3 days to complete, while the location of oil changes hour to hour. "I went swimming on Saturday in the Gulf, and it was fine," Buck Lee, the official who reopened the beaches, told the Pensacola News Journal. "A day or two later, I might not want to go in there." Some skeptical Pensacola residents say Lee reminds them of the mayor in Jaws who didn't want to ruin business by shutting down beaches to protect swimmers from sharks on a long holiday weekend.

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