Researchers try to pinpoint disease-spreading bacteria in the Estero River

The Estero River is beautiful, but tests show it is full of bacteria. Researchers are working to find the orgins.

Florida Gulf Coast University researchers launched their one-year testing of river water and groundwater to help find out how people may contribute to dirtying the water.

Dr. Serge Thomas, an FGCU Water School professor, said people use different systems. These can include septic tanks, central sewage and miniature wastewater treatment systems..

Thomas and Dr. Don Duke told WINK News the data could help us see exactly how to take action.

“If we can identify what the sources are,” Duke said, “it tells the village whether they might be able to take action and remove some of the sources.”

It is not only “dirty” water it would help fix. Duke said they are looking for bacteria carrying diseases in the river.

Following the source of the bacteria helps to track nutrients contributing to algae.

“Once you find bacteria of human origin, you can also probably find nutrient,” Thomas said. “Nutrient can feed algae.”

The samples, taken in rainy and dry seasons are sent to a lab, where researchers will use genomic or DNA testing to find answers.

By around this time next year, FGCU hopes to present a report to Estero on the origins of the bacteria. The university expects Estero to work with people on reducing whatever is contributing to the buildup.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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