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Health officials are warning about a potentially hazardous algae bloom in Lake Pontchartrain. An algae bloom that occurred in 2018.

As green-blue algae swirls in the Mississippi Sound, twelve beaches across Hancock and Harrison County remain closed to the public, according to a report from the Sun Herald.

But despite the closures, people can be seen swimming and standing in the affected waters.

Hancock County has taken a new step to increase awareness for locals and visitors by adopting a new flag system to warn beachgoers of any water hazards.

District 3 Supervisor Blaine LaFontain said in a Facebook post that the new system will have “appropriate signage and designated locations” along the affected beaches.

“These events with our water quality are a result of the unprecedented amount of freshwater intrusion in our body of water from the Bonnet Carré Spillway,” LaFontain said. “The frequency of these events over the last several years and historic event that is occurring means we have to prepare and communicate to protect public health and safety.”

On Monday, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new flag system. The warning system will have four new flags:

  • Green: Low hazard, meaning safe to swim.
  • Yellow: Moderate hazard reported from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Red: High hazard, advising the public to stay out of the water.
  • Double Red: Water closed for public use.

On Tuesday evening, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality announced four more beaches have closed:

  • Edgewater Beach in Biloxi
  • Biloxi West Central Beach
  • Front Beach in Ocean Springs
  • Shearwater Beach in Ocean Springs

MDEQ also issued a water contact advisory for part of the Jourdan River in Hancock County from the Interstate 10 bridge to the mouth of the river into St. Louis Bay.

Closures remain in effect for almost all all beaches west of Biloxi in Harrison and Hancock counties. For the latest updates on the closures, check MDEQ’s website, http://opcgis.deq.state.ms.us/beaches.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin closing the Bonnet Carré later this month, but the effects of the spillway’s historic two openings in 2019 is expected to bring long-term effects to the Coast.

The spillway opening is being blamed for high mortality rates of dolphins, oysters and other aquatic life, as well as the algae blooms plaguing Louisiana and Mississippi waters.