SWFL Inc. Statement Regarding Recent Reports of Fecal Bacteria in Southwest Florida Waterways

Advocacy & Policy,

SWFL Inc. statement regarding recent reports of Fecal Bacteria in Southwest Florida Waterways

According to a recent report published by FAU, human fecal bacteria has been found in Lee County Waters. The study found evidence that septic systems are contributing to Southwest Florida’s declining water quality.   

“These water quality issues in North Fort Myers are caused by aging septic systems installed in high densities areas with shallow water tables. In addition, the presence of canals in these residential areas with septic systems may increase the rate of pollutant transfer from groundwater to surface water via tidal pumping,” said Brian Lapointe, Ph.D., senior author and a research professor at FAU Harbor Branch. “Based on our previous research, we suspected that waste from septic systems was an important source of nutrient and bacterial pollution in North Fort Myers, and therefore location would be a more important factor for water quality than temporal factors, such as project year or season.” 

While it is easy for some to point fingers at the communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee, a 2015 UF study stated that 70% of inflows to the Caloosahatchee was local basin runoff. Making matters worse, it was reported last April that high levels of bacteria were found in Billy Creek. According to Neil Wilkinson, a retired instructor with FGCU’s Marine and Ecological Sciences Program,  “It’s poop, it’s going to, it’s fertilizer, it’s going to feed things that the plants that take advantage of that, and some of the bacteria that take advantage of that, for a lot of these harmful, cause harmful algal blooms, as the algae feeds on the bacteria that fertilizer, they expand, they bloom and these huge numbers, this whole area has been completely filled with blue-green algae at times.”  

Combine this with the recent FAU report about old septic tanks, it is evident that many of our water quality problems are happening in our own backyard. We can’t continue to play the blame game and must address the challenges we are seeing locally.  

“Clean water is critical to the success of Southwest Florida’s business community”, said Tiffany Esposito, SWFL Inc.’s President & CEO. “Our region can’t afford another summer like we saw in 2018. To maintain our quality of life and promote Southwest Florida has the best place to live, work, and play, we must have clean water”. 

SWFL Inc. will continue to work with both local and state partners to keep our water clean. Our efforts will be heavily focused on local policy solutions, and we will continue to shed light on water quality issues in Southwest Florida. We will actively advocate for stricter septic tank inspection requirements, penalties for improper maintenance, and infrastructure upgrades. Funding for septic to sewer should strategically target the region’s most vulnerable areas. To protect our most precious resource, we need to clean up what is going in our own backyard.  

To stay involved with SWFL Inc.’s advocacy efforts, visit https://www.swflinc.com/economic-development