Marco Island City Council committed to increasing water quality testing

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
File: Marco Island

The city of Marco Island has committed itself to exploring the root of the problem after a recent report indicated its waterways continue to be impaired.

At a water quality workshop Monday afternoon, the City Council instructed its staff to come back with more options for testing, including recommendations for additional sites, after nitrogen levels came up above the state requirements again.

Tim Hall, an ecologist with the consulting firm Turrell, Hall & Associates, presented his report to the City Council during the workshop and stated that the overall average for total nitrogen had increased from 2017, a year in which levels were already above the state requirements.

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The state considers a waterway impaired if nutrient levels exceed state requirements two out of three years.

While Hall said the data collected could not speak to the culprit of the problems, that was something that could be determined by additional testing.

When prompted by Councilor Victor Rios about the condition of swales, Hall said they were not functioning well in terms of filtration.

Additionally, Hall said problems could be exacerbated by the stormwater runoff due to the increases in impervious surfaces as a result of development.

Although the council has committed itself to increased testing, what that means is a different story.

Councilor Howard Reed suggested that the city consider point testing versus isotope testing as the city would be able to collect more samples at a lower cost.

Reed said isotope testing could cost around $1,000 per sample and with the hundreds needed, it would result in higher costs to the city.

Through his own research, Reed said there were firms that could build the city testing kits at a cheaper cost that would allow the city to dictate how many samples it collected.

Additionally, Reed said the city also needed to look at off-shore testing sites in addition to ones in the city’s canals.

One area where there seemed to be agreement was that the city needed to reevaluate its use of reclaimed water.

Reclaimed water has nutrient levels above the state requirements and is being used in an area on Marco Island where there is only one testing site. 

Capt. Brett Wilson said the city didn’t need to look at numbers to understand it has a problem that needs to be addressed.

“Anecdotally, the evidence doesn’t need to be broke down into nitrates and compounds,” Wilson said. “Our grasses are dying. Our fish are dying.”

Wilson questioned the city’s budgeting for water quality, stating that it spends substantially more on things like curb appeal and beach renourishment.

“We need a city that’s committed to clean water, which is the lifeblood of our economy, by putting their money where their mouth is,” Wilson said.

In addition the council agreeing on increasing water testing, it will also schedule another workshop to address additional measures the city can take to fix its impaired waterways.

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