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High levels of fecal bacteria found in Estero waterways

Posted at 11:52 PM, Apr 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 12:49:50-04

ESTERO, Fla. — Traces of fecal bacteria were found in four rivers in Estero, according to a new report released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Mullock Creek, Spring Creek, and Estero river showed signs of Enterococci, or fecal indicator bacteria, in the water. John Cassani with Calusa Waterkeeper says this type of bacteria is hard to track; the agency finding traces of the bacteria means the problem is significant.

“Their parameters for determining impairment require more frequent sampling at more locations,” Cassani said.

In Southwest Florida, outdoor water activities are favorite and part of routines. Physical exposure to fecal bacteria can cause health issues.

“Fecal indicator bacteria can cause problems, if you get it on you or if you ingest it accidentally,” Cassani said. “These bacteria types create significant public health risks. And so this is a little alarming not just because it creates a public health risk, but because these waters are outstanding Florida waters.”

“Outstanding Florida Waters” are given special protection by FDEP.

William Blevins lives on the Estero River in one of few neighborhoods running on septic tanks. He believes that might be part of the problem.

“I think anytime you have runoff or septic fields close to a body of water; you have the potential for… you know, some seepage,” he said.

Cassani says he wants to see more warning signs along the rivers when harmful bacteria are present.

“It creates a public health risk — and we need the Florida Department of Health to engage this issue a little bit more,” he said.

Fox 4 reached out to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection South District Office and Florida Department of Health in Lee County for comment but did not respond before deadline. The offices are closed until Monday morning.