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.

Rep. Spencer Roach
District 79
3436 Marinatown Lane
Suite 6
North Fort Myers, FL 33903
[email protected]
Rep. Mike Giallombardo
District 77
1039 SE 9th Place
Suite 310
Cape Coral, FL 33990-3131
[email protected]
Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka
District 78
2120 Main Street
Suite 208
Fort Myers, FL 33901-3010
[email protected]
Rep. Adam Botana
District 76
Sunshine Professional Center
9240 Bonita Beach Road SE
Suite 2215
Bonita Springs, FL 34135-4251
[email protected]
Sen. Raymond Rodrigues
District 76
17595 South Tamiami Trail
Suite 218
Fort Myers, Florida 33908
[email protected]
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo
District 28
3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
[email protected]
Sen. Ben Albritton
District 26
410 Taylor Street
Suite 106
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
[email protected]