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Longstanding issue of Lee County’s nutrient-rich waters found in test samples

Once we learned swarms of non-biting midge flies could signal poor water quality, we hired Sanders Laboratories to sample and test spots across Lee County. We took those results to a local water expert to explore what’s in the water.

From W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, down to Fort Myers Beach and several spots in between, Sanders Laboratories sampled fresh and saltwater bodies in six locations around Lee County to help us understand the water quality.

Crew members took samples March 25, and we got the results back April 9.

We brought them to Serge Thomas, with The Water School at FGCU. He told us this is only a snapshot of water quality, and it can change rapidly.

“We’re dealing here with a river, and the river is dynamic because it’s flowing,” Thomas explained. “If you were dealing with a lake, we would actually have a better depiction of what’s going on, on a longer time frame. With the Caloosahatchee, you know, it flushes all the water downstream.”

While the estuary is complicated, the test results reflect a longstanding issue of nutrient-rich waters.

“Overall, with all the samples that you’ve taken and crossing over with all the sample we have, we know is pretty high in nutrients, especially when we have some releases from the from Lake Okeechobee,” Thomas said. “But keep in mind that those nutrients do increase upstream, downstream.”

Something else that stood out to Thomas were higher bacteria levels as we moved downstream.

“We got to remind ourselves that this sample were not taken from the boat,” Thomas said. “I suppose they were taken from the shore. So that doesn’t really reflect the entire river. Right? So let’s say you’re sampling right next to a dog’s beach, you know, obviously, you’ll have high amount of coliform.”

While the results don’t represent an entire body of water, this snapshot brings us another step closer to better understanding Southwest Florida’s water.

MORE: WINK News SWFL Water Crisis stories

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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