Most oil spill advisories lifted at Florida beaches

State and local officials are asserting that most of the waters off the Panhandle are now safe for swimming.

A number of counties have lifted swimming advisories that had been put in place following the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The BP oil spill sent waves of oil onto beaches near Pensacola in July, causing local health officials to issue advisories against swimming in Escambia, Okaloosa and Walton counties. But the gushing well off the Louisiana coast was capped July 15 and state officials say no significant amounts of oil have washed ashore since then.

On Friday, the county health departments in Okaloosa and Walton counties lifted their remaining advisories against swimming. That left Escambia County with the only advisories in place on Monday. Advisories were being lifted on Monday at Pensacola Beach but they were expected to remain for some beaches on Perdido Key in Escambia County, according to the local Health Department.

In lifting the advisories, the local health departments cited studies by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection of water quality and oil in beach sand that apparently indicated swimming is safe. For beaches that were reopened, local health officials cautioned swimmers to be aware that scattered tar balls could continue to wash ashore.

Advisories were never issued for Santa Rosa County beaches because there were only scattered tar balls, said Bill Sirmans, the county’s environmental health director.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting