Water samples collected on Fort Myers Beach for testing

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Several agencies recruited friends and neighbors to collect water samples across Southwest Florida in an effort to confirm what’s in our water.

FGCU’s The Water School, Mound House and NOAA teamed up with community members to collect data from around 50 spots on Fort Myers Beach in our local waterways.

“What was the impetus for this project, what happened the past summer was the terrible impact on the wildlife and health of both wildlife and people here in Southwest Florida and particularly Fort Myers Beach,” said Peny Jarrett, education coordinator of Mound House.

About 50 volunteers helped collect samples in locations about a mile apart on Fort Myers Beach, including the Gulf of Mexico and Estero Bay waters.

“They give us clean vials, waded in past my elbows, so it was a couple feet deep,” volunteer Robin Gornto said. “And then you know seal it off. keep it cool bring it back.”

Some folks even brought their young children with them on the expedition.

“It’s cool to bring him down here and to be able to show him that ‘Hey, when you were two, you were helping out too,’” volunteer Paul Edwards said.

FGCU senior Cierra Homic said the volunteers were instrumental in completing the project.

“It saves a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of resources having the volunteers go to the 50 sites, take the samples, bring them to us,” Homic said. “So we can do the analysis and take them back to the lab.”

Students and researchers tested one sample from each site on location while educating volunteers about the whole process.

“I’d like to see what the water here is all about, what’s in it, make sure it’s safe. You know? Edwards said. “Looking forward to learning what they find out.”

They sent another sample from each site to the lab to test for nutrients in the water.

“We’ll get nutrient levels, and that will be what can cause blooms of algae,” said Colin McMullen, a Water School student.

They’ll use the results to compare to samples the agency partners plan to collect months from now. With the later results, organizers say the community and researchers can pinpoint areas to focus on in the effort to improve Southwest Florida’s water quality.

“It’s really for them, the next generation,” McMullen said. “So they can have clean beaches, clean water, good fishing. The community is the most important part. It’s not just the science.”

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