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
Fecal bacteria contamination in Billy’s Creek has been a concern for years, and a local group, Calusa Waterkeeper, is working to fix the problem. They hope new testing will help determine where the bacteria is coming from. Billy’s Creek winds from Fort Myers to the Caloosahatchee, but fecal bacteria has been plaguing this waterway for at least two decades.
John Cassani with Calusa Waterkeeper said the amount of fecal bacteria located in the creek is staggering. “The contamination is extraordinarily high, it’s terrible. It’s been this way for almost two decades.” Records of the fecal bacteria have been kept by Lee County since 2001.
Calusa Waterkeeper will conduct the first phase of a study to determine the source of the fecal bacteria contamination of Billy’s Creek. The testing determines if the nitrogen is from raw domestic sewage, wildlife, septic tanks, treated wastewater or agricultural sources and will be compared to a concurrent study in the Caloosahatchee River.
Poor results at every station on Billy’s Creek this month. Extremely high contamination at the Ortiz and Ortiz Circle stations as is almost always the case. Thanks to retired engineers and CWK Rangers Chris and Ed Shinouskis for their help collecting and analyzing samples.
Calusa Waterkeeper sampling results for enterococci bacteria at Billy’s Creek in Ft. Myers on 12-15-19. Serious contamination persists. The dredging this year did not mitigate the bacterial contamination.
Waterways are contaminated with fecal matter, including creeks and rivers that are in some neighbor’s backyards. John Cassani said Billy’s Creek and Estero Bay are polluted with fecal matter, along with bacteria at alarming rates. “We’re seeing levels frequently over a thousand,” Cassani said.
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