SOUTHWEST, Fla. — One benefit to living in Southwest Florida is the opportunity to enjoy life on or near the water.
While we often think of beaches when we think of our state, one organization says more needs to be done so you know what could be lingering in some of our other waterways.
“There should be signs there warning of that.”
John Cassani of Calusa Waterkeeper says more signage should be posted near water with high levels of fecal indicating bacteria.
That’s also known as enterococci bacteria.
The Florida Department of Health defines it as:
The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage.
Cassani explains that testing waterways for the bacteria should yield a MPN/100mL of 70 or below.
That’s the same standard the Florida Department of Health uses to determine how present the bacteria is at area beaches.
But Cassani says, other inland waterways (like lakes or small streams), don’t get diluted by the Gulf of Mexico.
“…And that’s where there’s a problem with public health risks from this bacteria.”
Calusa Waterkeeper recently tested 18 locations for enterococci bacteria.
Some locations in Fort Myers show numbers much higher than 70…with Manuel’s Branch at more than 4,000 and Billy’s reek at 10,462 as of January 23rd.
In December 2020, city officials said the creek was tested and said there’d be no trace of human waste.
But, Cassani says his team traced their own findings and their results indicate that “there is human influence in some of that bacteria”, he says.
He says signage that’s now up near Billy’s Creek should be placed near other waterways with elevated concentrations of the bacteria, too.
That includes Tropical Point Park in St. James City, where people can be seen wading or launching a kayak.
FOX 4 reached out to Lee County on Friday.
In a statement, a county spokesperson shared the following statement:
“Test results give a snapshot of conditions at the time the test is taken. Bacteria can come from a number of sources, including human contributions caused by deteriorated or obsolete septic systems. Other sources can include bird or animal waste and stormwater runoff.”
The county also shared their response to North Shore Park on the Caloosahatchee, which was also tested by Calusa Waterkeepers and showed an elevated level of the bacteria.
“North Shore Park is tested weekly for bacteria and results of each test are reported to the Florida Department of Health and to Lee County Parks and Recreation as they manage the Park. If results of the test are above the FDOH Healthy Beaches contaminant level, a second test is performed the next day. If the second test is still above the Healthy Beaches contaminant level, notice is provided to Lee County Parks and signage is posted.”