Bacteria polluted waterways may take several years for cleanup

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An impaired waterway. (Credit: WINK News)
An impaired waterway. (Credit: WINK News)

People swim and kayak in the Estero and Imperial rivers. But these areas are also two of the 10 waterways polluted with fecal and other bacteria that can make people sick.

Dr. Win Everham, professor of Environmental Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, hopes there is a new urgency to clean up the waterways affected by bacteria.

“The problem with what we’re doing right now with these impaired waterways is it takes too long for them to be repaired!” Dr. Everham said.

The first step is to determine whether the bacteria comes from animals, humans or both.

“Somebody has to pay for that,” Dr. Everham said. “That’s either going to be tax dollars that we all absorb the cost or you end up having to tell people you have got to get rid of that septic system.”

John Paeno, who runs CGT Kayaks near the Imperial River, said the news that there are bacteria in the water is devastating to his business.

“It’s 90 degrees out,” Paeno said. “There’s bacteria floating all around out there in the water. Might as well get a petri dish. It’s just going to grow and get worse.”

“It makes us think that okay, in the next three to five years, is there going to be a kayak business here?” CGT Kayak CEO Aaron Thomas said. “Are we going to be able to support three households and four employees?”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hosts a meeting Wednesday morning in Naples to begin the process of determining how best to handle these new impaired waters.

“We can be talking about a decade or more before something meaningful is done,” Dr. Everham said.

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