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Fecal Bacteria Count Exceeds Acceptable Levels in 4 IRC Lagoon Locations

The results for most of the areas tested far exceeded what would be a safe for boaters or swimmers. Fafeita says if the state found the same results where they test at Jaycee Beach or Humiston Beach. they would close those beaches
Photo courtesy Clean Water Coalition
The Oslo boat Basin, one of 4 areas in Indian River County where high levels of fecal bacteria was found.

The Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County has found fecal bacteria in 4 areas of the Indian River Lagoon frequented by boaters and bathers. In each area they found bacteria levels that "far exceeded" the acceptable levels set by the Florida Health Department.

47 tests were conducted last year, about 4 every month.

The 4 areas that were sampled are all in Indian River County. They are the MacWilliams Park boat ramp, the west side of the 17th street bridge where there is a youth sailing program, the Oslo Road boat ramp where there is a youth kayak program, and near the Sabastian River outlet behind the Roseland Community Center.

“During the rainy season, the numbers spiked," said Paul Fafeita is the president of the Clean Water Coalition, "and most of the areas the numbers far exceeded what would be a safe number. If these numbers came up at Jaycee Beach or Humiston Beach they would close the beach.”

Image courtesy of CWC
Results of tests conducted by the Clean Water Coalition during 2021

The Coalition conducted and paid for the testing on its own. The samples were analyzed by the health department's lab. The health department does not do testing in those locations, even though they are frequented by boaters and bathers.

“What we’re trying to do right now is bring awareness to it," said Fafeita, "Before we started doing fecal bacteria testing in the lagoon no one else was.”

Fafeita says health officials told him they didn’t have the funds to do the testing. Last year a bill to provide $5M to cover expanded testing failed in the state legislature. But Fafeita called that chump change compared to the economic value of the lagoon in terms of real estate values and the tourism

“At some point you gotta say OK we’ve got the data, now lets fix the problem," he said. "We’re at that point right now, we know what the problem is, lets fix it.”