EPA administrator Lisa Jackson made some comments about swimming off the beach in the Florida panhandle.
The nation's top environmental regulator said she would not swim in the waters off an oil- and tar-saturated beach at a Panhandle park and advised beachgoers to trust their noses and eyes when deciding whether to plunge into the gulf.
"I haven't gone over to the water but based on the facts of this beach and the oil, no, I would not go into the water today," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. She spent about an hour touring Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola Beach on Saturday.
Jackson later met with Florida and Alabama officials to discuss strategy about beach safety. She also responded to accusations by local government workers who had accused her of failing to issue water quality standards they need to decide whether to ban swimming.
Just before the Fourth of July weekend, Escambia County officials issued a permanent "oil impact advisory" warning for all of its 43-mile stretch of beaches from the Florida/Alabama state line to Santa Rosa County. Swimmers are warned to stay out of the water if they see or feel oil or tar.
On Saturday, Jackson reinforced that approach. She said that "smell and see" is the best way to tell if the water is safe.
"From a common sense perspective, there is nothing that I am going to be able to tell you in a chemical lab that you can't learn about the safety of the water … by looking at it and smelling it," Jackson said after touring the beach.