• Cape Coral: 'We definitely missed a bullet'
    Cape Coral: 'We definitely missed a bullet'
  • Fort Myers streets find themselves underwater after Hurricane Irma
    Fort Myers streets find themselves underwater after Hurricane Irma
  • First look at damage from Hurricane Irma in Fort Myers
    First look at damage from Hurricane Irma in Fort Myers
  • Flooding in north Cape Coral
    Flooding in north Cape Coral
  • Hurricane Irma: The aftermath at Gateway
    Hurricane Irma: The aftermath at Gateway
  • Video of Hurricane Irma at Fort Myers Beach from a resident
    Video of Hurricane Irma at Fort Myers Beach from a resident
  • Jet Blue sustains damage to practice fields
    Jet Blue sustains damage to practice fields
  • Hurricane Irma visits Fort Myers Beach and downtown Fort Myers
    Hurricane Irma visits Fort Myers Beach and downtown Fort Myers
  • Guima Martial Goes Home
    Guima Martial Goes Home
  • Hurricane Irma: A view from above of flood-ravaged Lehigh Acres
    Hurricane Irma: A view from above of flood-ravaged Lehigh Acres
  • Hurricane Irma: Some getting desperate for gas, long wait times near I-75s
    Hurricane Irma: Some getting desperate for gas, long wait times near I-75s
  • Hurricane Irma: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge an easy cleanup
    Hurricane Irma: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge an easy cleanup
  • Hurricane Irma: Rescued Brown Pelican brought to CROW
    Hurricane Irma: Rescued Brown Pelican brought to CROW
  • Update Hurricane Irma: A tree falls in Dunbar
    Update Hurricane Irma: A tree falls in Dunbar
  • Church distributes supplies
    Church distributes supplies
  • After Irma: schools review damage before cleanup efforts can start
    After Irma: schools review damage before cleanup efforts can start
  • Irma damage at Edison-Ford Estates
    Irma damage at Edison-Ford Estates
  • Hurricane Irma: People wait in line for Publix to open
    Hurricane Irma: People wait in line for Publix to open
  • Hurricane Irma breaks struggling community
    Hurricane Irma breaks struggling community
  • Hurricane Irma leaves Iona-McGregor residents tired
    Hurricane Irma leaves Iona-McGregor residents tired
  • Island Park Road flooding
    Island Park Road flooding
  • Miracle exec assessing damage at Hammond Stadium
    Miracle exec assessing damage at Hammond Stadium
  • Watch: Utilities trucks lined up for miles along Interstate 75
    Watch: Utilities trucks lined up for miles along Interstate 75
  • Hurricane Irma leaves Sanibel residents relieved
    Hurricane Irma leaves Sanibel residents relieved
1 LINKEDIN 2 COMMENTMORE

Water samples from several locations in the Caloosahatchee River show elevated levels of bacteria have washed into the river in the wake of Hurricane Irma. 

Although local beaches tested clean recently, waters near the Centennial Park boat ramp and Billy's Creek were tested by Calusa Waterkeeper, a water quality watchdog group based in Fort Myers, that showed high levels of coliform and e coli. 

The samples were processed at Florida Gulf Coast University's Buckingham laboratory. 

"(Downtown) Fort Myers is off the charts for total coliform and e coli," said John Cassani, who took the samples. "It’s just a terrible mess right now: public health problems and ecological problems."

Coliform and e coli come from the intestines of birds, animals and humans, and the tests are conducted to see if and how much of each is flowing into local waterways. 

For more coverage of Hurricane Irma and the storm's aftermath visit: news-press.com/hurricane.

The Environmental Protection Agency says e coli can occur naturally in soils and even at sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. 

Cassani and others are concerned that the coliform and e coli could be signs of raw sewage backups in Fort Myers last week, or possibly a leak in the city's sewer system. 

Some of that untreated sewage that backed up after Irma made its way into the river. 

But some water quality scientists say the bacteria is likely coming from animal and pet waste that has sat on the landscape for some time.

More: Irma update: Raw sewage backs up in neighborhoods across Lee County

More: Health Dept: Lee County beaches testing 'normal' after Hurricane Irma

 Rains from Hurricane Irma washed that waste off the landscape and into the ditches, canals and, eventually, the river. the theory goes.

Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation on Sanibel, said he talked to Cassani about the tests. 

"Whenever there’s a rainfall event the (coliform and e coli) numbers go up," Bartleson said. "It’s an indicator of sewage pollution but is also interfered with by wildlife feces, from birds and mammals."

The sewage backup in Fort Myers happened because some of the city's 200 lift stations — pumps used to move sewage to wastewater treatment plants — were without power. 

"It doesn’t mean there is (an active) sewage leak," Bartleson said.

Fort Myers spokeswoman Kirsten O'Donnell said there are 10 lift stations without power, but that eight of those are being operated by generators. 

"I think anytime you have a significant rain event like that you’re going to have more things in the water," O'Donnell said. 

More: Hurricane Irma update: What's that smell?

More: Gov. Scott visits Everglades City, Immokalee to assess Hurricane Irma damage, needs

Bartleson said he thinks the elevated bacteria levels are due to stormwater runoff carrying that bacteria in large volumes to the Caloosahatchee. 

"We found high enterococcus (another indicator of untreated sewage) running off all kind of places that weren’t near sewer plants," Bartleson said. "It's from birds and animals. And it’s just not that good of an indicator of human sewage. You could have a couple hundred cows in an area and they’re not wearing diapers."

Still, Cassani said he would avoid waters in the river, especially in the downtown area. 

"Don’t go near the water," Cassani said of the Caloosahtchee River. "Don’t get it on you. I’d say for the next several weeks at least, don’t go near the water if you’re interested in your health."

Connect with this reporter: Chad Gillis (@ChadGillisNP) on Twitter. 

More: Hurricane Irma aftermath: Floridians without flood insurance face astronomical bills

More: Hurricane Irma update: Army Corps releases more water from Lake Okeechobee

 

1 LINKEDIN 2 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://newspr.es/2yeoATe