Originally published in The News-Press by Amy Bennett Williams on June 27, 2019

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.

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