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Fecal indicator bacteria found in water at Pine Island park

Swimmers, beware: What’s in the water would not only make your stomach turn – it could make you sick.

The water at a Pine Island park has tested positive for fecal indicator bacteria and there are no warning signs.

Tropical Point Park is open for fishing and kayaking, but “swimmers swim at their own risk.”

“It’s disheartening because, especially in summer, kids are swimming here every day. It’s now school so there’s nobody here but usually, there are a lot of people here swimming and kayaking and everybody’s in this water and it’s not safe to be here when it’s like that,” said Kaye Vaughn, a volunteer ranger with Calusa Waterkeeper.

She took samples of the water starting last year.

“The samples were coming back fine until September,” she said.

That’s when results started showing very high levels of fecal indicator bacteria. Now, Scott Wilkinson, president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, keeps tabs on it, too. He took a sample Tuesday before bringing it to a lab in Fort Myers.

“This is a public health issue. We want the county to come out here and regularly test,” he said.

While the Florida Department of Health in Lee County collects samples at 13 swimming beaches as part of the state’s Healthy Beaches program, Tropical Point Park in St. James City isn’t one of them. The spot is used to launch kayaks and canoes.

The county said it tested the area ahead of a school field trip last fall and found bacteria levels under maximum contamination. To their knowledge, no further field trips have happened at the park.

Wilkinson expects to have his sampling results back by the end of the week.

The health department said that people should avoid ingesting water and entering it if they have open cuts or sores, particularly in waters that aren’t watched or designated for swimming.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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