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Elevated fecal bacteria recorded in several Lee County waterways

fecal bacteria July 16 2022
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 17:28:36-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Last week, Fox 4 told you about high fecal bacteria found at Bonita Beach which led to the Florida Department of Health to advise against swimming in the water.

The Calusa Waterkeepers, a local conservation group, released sampling data from July 16 showing three other locations that saw fecal bacteria indicators.

Those locations included Pine Island Sound at Flamingo Bay on Pine Island and Billy’s Creek near Ortiz Avenue and Shady Oaks Park.

With the recent reports of fecal bacteria, Fox 4 reached out to Dr. Don Duke, a professor of environmental science at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Duke says fecal bacteria can come from all warm-blooded organisms and that there is a specific test to define if it is of human origin. He adds that it is important to monitor this, because fecal bacteria can spread diseases like dysentery and cholera. That said, he adds that if you swim in contaminated water, you may or may not feel its effects. But the longer you are in that water, your odds increase.

“You can be in the room full of people sneezing and you might catch a cold or you might not," said Dr. Duke. "If you swim in water that has some fecal matter in it, you might get a stomach ache or you might not. It’s probabilistic still. So, it’s not like a toxin where it is going to immediately start working on your system. It’s just the longer you spend in water that has this kind of contamination, the more your odds go up.”

Dr. Duke says the hard part about fecal bacteria is finding its point source. It could be coming from hundreds of different septic systems, hundreds of miles of sewer pipes leaking or even naturally, from animal presence whose fecal matter has similar bacteria to humans.