Normally, summer camp at Estero’s Happehatchee Center would end with a splash party — canoe races and a water fight in the village’s namesake river.
Not this year.
“As a nurse, I am recommending that these kids don’t go into the water at all,” said former board member Holley Rauen, who’s also a volunteer ranger with Calusa Waterkeeper. Happehatchee describes itself as an eco-spiritual nonprofit.
Last week, a water sample pulled from the camp’s banks showed levels of dangerous fecal bacteria more than 10 times what would close a swimming beach. Exposure can cause gastrointestinal illness, rashes and infections.
Those alarming counts are nothing new to the much-loved-yet-chronically troubled river, which flows to Estero Bay, the state’s first aquatic preserve.