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
The current Florida Department of Health (FDOH) policy at the county level is inconsistent. The only waters routinely monitored are the coastal beaches. It’s rare when signage warning of fecal bacteria is implemented, often at the discretion of local politicians who have no training in public health.
This week, Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani, informs us of Lake Okeechobee and the ongoing releases from the Army Corps of Engineers into the Caloosahatchee. There has also been a recent spike in red tide along the gulf.
Efforts to clean up Billy’s Creek are getting a boost. The City of Fort Myers and Calusa Waterkeeper are working together surveying the waterway to help make our water cleaner. The problem is, surveyors are getting conflicting data for fecal bacteria and source tracing.
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.
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