Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB)
Bacteria contamination plaguing Florida waterways has arguably reached a crisis point. For example, Billy’s Creek, a tributary flowing into the Caloosahatchee near downtown Fort Myers, has long been a hot spot for Enterococci bacteria. Enterococcus is used as an indicator of fecal contamination which can carry disease-spreading bacterium such as E. Coli.
Independent testing of several Lee County waterways is routinely performed by Calusa Waterkeeper staff and volunteer rangers. Test results are determined in our independent lab and at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) depending on the number of samples. Calusa Waterkeeper’s close watch of local creeks has compelled more monitoring by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Enterococci bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness, infections and rashes. Fecal indicator bacteria tests high in several Southwest Florida creeks both in the wet and dry season, but is commonly driven by stormwater runoff which carries bacteria into area waterways.
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Fecal Indicator Bacteria
Lee County’s health department warns residents to avoid the water at local beaches due to high fecal bacteria levels that could cause illness. Bowditch Point Park on Fort Myers Beach and Cape Coral’s Yacht Club beaches had unsafe levels of Enterococcus bacteria.
This month out of the 30 sites throughout the watershed tested by the Calusa Waterkeeper, 23% passed and 77% failed. The highest FIB count reported of 2,909 MPN at Manuel’s Branch will be discussed in a upcoming meeting.
Some tributaries flowing into the Caloosahatchee River and Estero Bay are polluted with fecal coliform bacteria, with counts going well above the criteria used to determine whether or not a beach is safe for swimming.
Southwest Florida water experts are warning beachgoers, boaters, and the like – go in at your own risk. Calusa Waterkeeper and the Department of Health samplings show how even at beaches like Lynn Hall Beach Park, bacteria is showing in high amounts.
January bacteria sampling results include new locations this month like Bunche Beach, Hendry Creek, Mullock Creek, Spring Creek, and Estero River! Take a look at Pine Island; the results were very high this month all around.
Eleven Southwest Florida beaches got poor marks after tests showed high fecal bacteria counts. At popular Bonita Beach, the Florida Department of Health is advising people to stay out of the water completely until it clears.
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