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Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
Email: kmoore@wwltv.com | Twitter: @katiecmoore

NEWORLEANS - The death of a 17-year-old after he jumped off a pier into Lake Pontchartrain is the fourth in the past two years near Pontchartrain Beach. Most of the South shore of the lakefront is marked with signs that say 'No swimming.'

So, is it against the law? And who is supposed to enforce it?

Spring time in New Orleans makes swimming in the lake hard to resist.

'I wouldn't recommend anybody to get in it, but I mean, a kid's gonna be a kid. They see water, they want to play.

They want to enjoy themselves, even adults,' said one New Orleans resident who was working on his boat Monday.

It's why on just about any nice day you see people taking the plunge in Lake Pontchartrain, even with 'No swimming' signs surrounding the beach.

'There's a drowning hazard and being an actual water body, there's a natural hazard you can have in a water body. So, just because a lake is safe from a bacteria standpoint, it doesn't mean it's safe from other health hazards,' said John Lopez, Executive Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

The group was formed to make the lake 'safe' for swimmers after pollution and high bacteria levels forced closures in the '70's and '80's. It's the same time when the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park closed.

Since then, the Orleans Levee District began leasing the beach to the University of New Orleans, but UNO is only required to allow the public to access the beach, not provide any sort of clean-up, safety measures or life guards.

In a brief statement, a UNO Spokesman said, 'Because there is no lifeguard on duty, there are 'no swimming' signs posted to advise the public of the inherent risks of swimming in an unsupervised area.'

The Orleans Levee District said the rest of the Lakefront was never technically re-opened for swimming either.

'I used to come out here and swim. But there's not a beach to come out and swim at,' a New Orleans resident said.

Even so, it's a long-time swim spot. Back in 2002, at least four people drowned in a single year, with crowds still flocking to take a dip.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation wants to fix it up, but plans to turn it around in 2005 washed out with hurricane Katrina.

In two weeks, the beach and the lake will be used for the swimming leg of the Iron Man: New Orleans competition.

UNO grants the event access, but organizers provide life guards and contract with the NOPD to have safety boats on standby for it.

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