SWFL man takes closer look at 'dirty' water

Posted at 7:54 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 07:24:23-05
CAPE CORAL, Fla.- A Southwest Florida man fishing for facts as he tries to find out for himself what the water releases from Lake Okeechobee are doing to our coastline.
Like many Southwest Floridians who make their living on the water, Fishing Captain George Howell says he's decided to go a little deeper to test the water quality himself.
George Howell isn't a scientist but he is passionate about Southwest Florida's waterways.  That's why he and his friend rented equipment to get a closer look inside Southwest Florida's water. He says the ongoing Freshwater releases have affected his charter and fishing guide business, he had to take a closer look.
"I've lost over a thousand dollars," Captain Howell said. "Maybe up to 2 thousand dollars in the last 30 days."
"You can say you know what's in the water, but until you test it and really look you don't know the facts," Howell said. "This is a way to get the facts of what's really going on down there."
FOX 4 went along for the boat ride to see some of his findings.  "You can see what the fresh water is bringing with it." 
Captain Howell spent the day in the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River where it meets the Gulf. 
"The first thing we notice is the salinity is at 16.5 PSU and normal seawater at the Gulf of Mexico should be about 35 or 36."
Howell says his concern goes beyond the salinity of the water.  "We have an abnormal amount of nutrients coming through with that fresh water that we don't normally see during fresh water releases," Howell said.
How do these results fit in this bigger issue? 
John Cassani with the Southwest Florida Water Shed Council says these results reaffirm what's ahead.  "We're going to see mass mortality in those kind of animals and plants," Cassani said. "They just cant move out of the way of all this fresh water."
"It's going to cost money to solve this problem but it's going to cost a lot more money not to solve this problem."
Experts say the releases will be devastating to plants and fish that need a higher salinity like spotted sea trout. 
To view water salinity levels in real time you can click here.