Bacteria Monitoring

Cassani at Billy's Creek

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.

Updates & Action

Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB) Sampling

The data in this interactive map includes Calusa Waterkeeper test sites and publicly available data from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). Click on a site to get more information and note the last date of sampling.

  • It should be noted that we are not measuring or observing fecal matter in the water. These tests measure for fecal indicator bacteria, specifically enterococci. 
  • Bacteria sampling results show occurrences of serious contamination, especially in the upper reaches of Lee County tributaries.
  • Contamination values have routinely been found at many times the EPA Beach Action Value of 70 MPN.
  • Even with these high levels of contamination, few if any warning signs are typically posted.
  • Both Lee County and municipal officials are aware of this issue.

FIB Sampling Archives

(click images to enlarge view)

Related News Stories

Fecal Indicator Bacteria

Words from the Waterkeeper, Episode 21

Words from the Waterkeeper, Episode 21

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.

Calusa Waterkeeper Tests for Source of Billy’s Creek Contamination

Calusa Waterkeeper Tests for Source of Billy’s Creek Contamination

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.

Calusa Waterkeeper to Conduct Source Tracing of Fecal Bacteria in Billy’s Creek

Calusa Waterkeeper to Conduct Source Tracing of Fecal Bacteria in Billy’s Creek

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.

Billy’s Creek Enterococci Sampling Results, January 2020

Billy’s Creek Enterococci Sampling Results, January 2020

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.

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Cassani at Billy's Creek

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Calusa Waterkeeper has been at the forefront of monitoring this Fort Myers tributary for fecal bacteria indicators.