Billy's Creek in Fort Myers: Good news, bad news
There’s good news and bad news for historic Billy’s Creek, a much-messed-with waterway that runs almost five miles past more than 1,000 Lee County homes before it empties into the Caloosahatchee River.
The creek's huge basin extends east of Interstate 75 and collects runoff from much of urban east Fort Myers as well as the industrial areas in its ditch- and canal-drained headwaters. It was named for Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs, who was forced out of Florida by the U.S. Army and surrendered on the creek's banks in 1858.
First, the bad news: It’s filthy.
Beyond the downed trees and trash that all but choke the creek off in places, creating squishy berms of bags, bottles and rotting algae, its water is full of dangerous fecal bacteria.
Something wicked in the water: Lee and Collier led the state last year in cases of
Multiple databases, that include city of Fort Myers and Lee County tests, show that starting in 2001, its enteric bacteria readings consistently exceed what the state says is safe. It averaged nearly 20 times over the warning level at one test station for more than 14 years, and once reached 56 times the safe level. Yet the creek has not been declared impaired — bureaucrat-ese for polluted — nor has any agency or government taken official responsibility for restoring it.
The public health concerns are serious. This kind of bacteria, Enterococci, show that water has been polluted with feces, which can cause disease. If people go in water tainted with it, they can get gastrointestinal illness, infections and rashes. What’s more, multi-drug resistant Enterococcal strains are now one of the leading causes of hospital-acquired infections.