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Collier County officials have issued health advisories for a number of beaches after tests this week showed elevated levels of a bacteria in coastal waters.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier posted warning signs Wednesday at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, the Naples Pier, Residents Beach, South Marco Beach, Park Shore, Barefoot Beach, Vanderbilt Beach and Seagate Beach.

The advisories indicated those beaches were in the "poor" category for water quality, based on levels of enterococci bacteria, an indicator of fecal pollution, in the water, according to a news release.

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Skimboarder, Austin Bleiweiss of Naples enjoys high tide during his day off from the firefighter job at the beach near the Naples Pier. Blesiweiss was born and raised in Naples, Florida. H. Leo Kim, Naples Daily News

The advisories warn against swimming at the posted beaches. Anyone who chooses to swim anyway should "rinse off immediately" once they get out of the water, said Health Department spokeswoman Kristine Gajos. 

"It may cause an infection or rash," Gajos  said Thursday.

Collier officials urged beachgoers to heed the advisories and stay out of the water until conditions improve. 

The high bacteria levels were found during routine sampling Monday. The beaches were retested Tuesday to determine whether advisories would be needed. 

Once conditions allow it, samplers will return to the affected beaches for a new round of tests. They will continue sampling until bacteria levels fall enough to lift the advisory.

"We anticipate going back out either today or tomorrow," Gajos said.

Bonita Beach Park and Little Hickory Island Park also tested "poor" for bacteria Monday, but follow-up test results Wednesday came back negative for bacteria, and health advisories were not posted.

Sampling in Collier showed bacteria levels to be greater than 71 colonies per 100 milliliters of marine water, which puts those beaches in the poor range. "Good" levels are considered to be 0 to 35 colonies per 100 milliliters of marine water, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. 

Although the exact cause of the elevated levels is unknown, runoff from heavy rains and heavy surf from Hurricane Michael could be contributing factors, Gajos said.

More: Hurricane Michael brings waves, possible beach erosion to Collier County

And: Hurricane Michael falls short of a Category 5 – by just 2 mph

"We don't always understand these phenomena and with Hurricane Michael churning up the Gulf, we know there are multiple factors that cause these conditions," county spokesman Mike Sheffield said in an emailed statement.

"This is not an issue just in Collier County; health advisories have also been issued for several beaches in Sarasota County."

At Vanderbilt Beach, some visitors Thursday morning were not aware of the advisories, even though a sign was posted there. Instead, red tide was fresh on their minds.

Becky Tamasi, who is visiting from New Jersey, dipped her feet in the choppy water but didn't go much farther.

Although she did not know about the health advisory, Tamasi, 53, said she has been mostly steering clear of the water anyway.

"Our first day here there were literally thousands of dead fish," she said. "And we couldn't even walk. So we were thinking there is no way we are going in.

"And even though it's cleared up and the dead fish are gone, we're still like, 'Nah, we're not taking a chance.' "

Others, however, were not deterred. 

Richard Taylor, vacationing from New York, was among the handful of swimmers Thursday morning who enjoyed the turbulent waters at Vanderbilt Beach.

He, too, said he wasn't aware of the advisory but had heard of the red tide spells.

"It wasn't really a concern," said Taylor, 34, referring to red tide. "People told me it was OK."

As for the elevated bacteria levels, he said he would defer to officials.

"If I was aware of it and they said, 'Don't go in,' I wouldn't go in," Taylor said. "If I was aware of it and they said it's OK to swim, I'd probably swim."

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.

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