NewsProtecting Paradise


Fort Myers leaders, environmental groups collaborate for creek clean-up

Posted at 10:08 AM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 10:08:46-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The contaminated water in Billy’s Creek today, is not the same water Councilman Johnny Streets remembers seeing as a child.

“We used to go down to Billy’s Creek and do a lot of fishing. Not only fishing, but also crabbing,” said Streets.

The creek in his ward runs east from the Caloosahatchee River past Marsh Avenue. The creek is contaminated. Everyone can agree on that. The controversy comes regarding what’s in it. During a presentation to City Council in September, City Manager Saeed Kazemi says it’s not human waste.

“We have done testing, and the testing is going to show that there is no human fecals,” said Kazemi.

In a letter to then Mayor Randy Henderson, John Cassani, with the environmental group Calusa Waterkeeper says traces of human waste are in Billy’s Creek.

But Kazemi maintains the city’s findings. In a statement to Fox 4, a city spokesperson said the city uses accredited labs and reports findings to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But, Calusa Waterkeeper doesn’t have to.

“The city is accountable for water quality reporting to FDEP, using accredited labs for analysis that require chain of custody for all sampling. Calusa Waterkeeper sampling is not required to follow any of these defined protocols, nor is it accountable to any of these regulatory agencies.”

But Cassani says in his letter, he referenced samples from FDEP. Cassani says they found indicators of human waste like artificial sweeteners and pharmaceuticals.

The city also said they sampled a different area of Billy’s Creek. Streets says they all need to get on the same page.

“Certainly, there’s some issues that are going to show higher numbers than others. That’s because of the layout, again that’s not something we can’t work out,” he said.

He says it can be fixed with simply testing the same areas. Councilman Fred Burson says he trusts Cassani’s findings over the city’s data.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the study. I think that the Calusa Waterkeeper’s report is more conclusive and accurate than our own study was,” he said.

Streets, Burson, and Cassani say they look forward to fixing the problem together.

Cassani says the next step is to find the source of the water contamination, which could be septic tanks. Councilman Burson says if that is the case, it could cost the city millions of dollars, but it would be worth it.