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
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.
Billy’s Creek Dredging Project may Relieve Flooding on the Troubled Tributary, but Fecal Pollution Remains a Worry
Even as dredges suck bottom muck while earthmovers level it out at an impromptu staging area at Fort Myers’ Shady Oaks Park, Calusa Waterkeeper’s samples of Billy’s Creek continue to show levels of fecal bacteria well beyond what would close a public beach.
With the exception of Billy’s Creek, it’s good to see fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) decline to low levels. Some residents have contacted CWK recently to indicate improving water clarity as well. These sample results are from May 21, 2019 ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend.
Bacteria sampling results from Billy’s Creek show serious contamination, especially in the upper reaches. The result from station BC-9, near Ortiz Avenue is the highest we have seen since sampling began: 172 times the EPA Beach Action Value of 70 MPN.
The City of Fort Myers will soon move forward with a dredging project in Billy’s Creek that’s expected to ease flooding but may not improve water quality in the ailing Caloosahatchee tributary. Funding for the project is possible thanks to an FDEP grant of $775,000.
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