Originally published by Fort Myers News-Press by Amy Bennett Williams on March 24, 2024

Codty Pierce pulls on one black glove (waste not, want not) then dips a lightbulb changing pole-turned-water sampler into the mangrove-lined canal. Once the small glass jar in its claw is filled, Pierce draws back the pole, screws on a black top and slips it into a padded case, noting time and conditions.

It’s a fine Saturday morning. Already, tennis players and dog owners are flocking to North Fort Myers’ waterfront Judd Park to play in the spring sunshine. But Pierce, the Calusa Waterkeeper, is there for public service science: testing the park’s paddlecraft launch for fecal bacteria. (The place is also popular with anglers, as the monofilament snarled in the mangroves shows.)

Maybe not the most glamorous work, but it’s critically important to watch and warn people about poop-polluted water, he says. Within hours, the lab will show Pierce’s sample to have more than double the amount of fecal bacteria that would trigger a public warning were the kayak launch a beach. Though Florida’s Healthy Beaches program has sampled waterfronts for fecal bacteria and made advisories when levels are unsafe for more than two decades, it’s a different story for freshwater sites like Judd Park.

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