Fecal bacteria contamination in Florida waters is widespread.
In coastal estuaries 1,171,692 acres are determined impaired by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and 9,262 miles of Florida’s streams and rivers are impaired for fecal bacteria. The vast majority of these waters have recreation as a designated use determined by state statute and rule.
Fecal bacteria, and the pathogens they are indicators of, can sicken swimmers and others who use public waters for recreation or who eat raw shellfish or fish.
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.
Most public waters in Florida are officially designated for recreation, which could include swimming. Florida’s rivers, lakes and estuaries are popular recreation areas and include state aquatic preserves and waters designated as Outstanding Florida Waters.
FDEP monitors public waters for fecal bacteria contamination but the FDOH does not use this information to warn the public because they claim only waters DESIGNATED for swimming (a small subset of all Florida waters) need to be monitored.
Calusa Waterkeeper would recommend new policy for FDOH that requires caution signs at public access points for state recreational waters determined by FDEP to be verified impaired for fecal bacteria. Caution signs should clearly indicate the reason for caution and remain until the waterbody is restored and the designated use associated with recreation is attained.
Tell your state legislators that you want FDOH to monitor and warn the public when state waters (not just coastal beaches) are unsafe for recreation or swimming.
3436 Marinatown Lane
North Fort Myers, FL 33903
1039 SE 9th Place
Cape Coral, FL 33990-3131
17595 South Tamiami Trail
Fort Myers, Florida 33908
3299 East Tamiami Trail
Naples, FL 34112