High bacteria level pose health risk in Billy’s Creek

Homes along Billy’s Creek can be prone to flooding when it rains, but it’s not the only thing Lee County residents should be concerned with.

John Cassini, of Calusa Waterkeeper, said he conducts tests on the creek monthly and found bacteria levels are often between 20 and 30 times higher than what’s considered safe.

“The advisory for concern for health risk is around 70 or it is 70 and we’ve seen levels as high as 2000 in the creek,” Cassini said.

The bacteria includes fecal matter, which can make people sick. Cassini added it can also cause rashes and intestinal issues.

“If the bacterial is highly elevated and it’s in the flood water into someone’s yard, yes it is potentially a public health problem,” Cassini said.

The lack of signage and progress to make the creek safer is apparent for experts like Cassini.

“… It’s just kind of frustrating to see this level of a problem exist for this long without it being addressed,” Cassini said.

Four years ago, the City of Fort Myers obtained a permit to dredge the creek, but needs state funds to complete the project. State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen wants $775,000 from the House budget to start the project.

Paul Allen, a Southwest Florida resident whose home was destroyed after Hurricane Irma, said it wasn’t the first time Billy’s Creek flooded.

“imagine 2 (to) 3 feet of water from the bottom of the house,” Allen said. “Thousands of millions of gallons rushing this way to hit that creek.”

However, the dredging would help lessen the creek’s water levels, but it’s unclear why the bacteria levels are as high as they are.

“Broken waste water lines, septic tanks, dog waste, a lot of potential sources,” Cassini said. “We’re not sure what the primary source is for the bacteria at this point.”

Writer:Rachel Ravina