Sept. 20, 2017
Hurricane Irma Update: Florida Department of Health Gives Lee, Collier Beaches all-Clear for Bacteria
By Eric Staats
Beaches in Collier and Lee counties got the all-clear Wednesday after tests showed the water to have safe levels of bacteria. The Florida Department of Health had issued a precautionary no-swimming advisory in the days after Hurricane Irma in case contaminated floodwaters had found their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Reports of sewage system overflows were widespread in Collier and Lee counties when pump stations lost power during Irma. Tests at Lee beaches Monday and Collier beaches Tuesday found enterococci levels below 35 units per 100 milliliters of water, which puts water quality in the "good" category, according to health department results released Wednesday.
For a beach to be closed for swimming due to bacteria contamination, enterococci numbers have to be at least 71 units. Collier environmental health supervisor Jaime Cook said the timing of the samples — a week after the storm — and beaches free of rotting fish or seaweed helped the results.
"I think the water had time to settle down, move away from the coast," she said. "We typically have very good water quality." The testing was part of Lee and Collier counties' Healthy Beaches program, which tests beach water quality every Monday. Samples were not collected the day after the Sunday that Irma made landfall. Beaches tested in south Lee included Bonita Beach Park, Bowditch Park, Bowman's Beach, Lovers Key State Park and Little Hickory Island Park.
In Collier, health workers sampled Barefoot Beach, Vanderbilt Beach, Clam Pass, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Doctors Pass, Lowdermilk Park, the Naples Pier, and Park Shore, as well as and Hideaway, Tigertail, Residents and South beaches on Marco Island. The highest bacteria level counted in Collier was at Tigertail, which posted a result from the lagoon side of the beach of 31 units per 100 milliliters.