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SCCF shares results of two-year water quality study with Panel

By Staff | Mar 9, 2011

After two years of sampling, measuring, tracking, recording and analyzing, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory is almost ready to reveal the results of the Captiva Community Panel study, funded through the Lee County Tourist Development Council Beach and Shoreline Capital Improvement Program.

On Tuesday, lead researcher on the water quality study Mark Thompson walked the Panel through the methodologies that were used to collect the data he presented at the end of his program.

The study focused on levels of the Enterococcus bacteria and nutrients, or nitrates, in both surface water — the gulf and estuary — and in groundwater. The study also considered a wide range of variables, including high and low season, wet and dry seasons, developed and undeveloped areas and runoff after rainfall events.

What the study found, in part:

• bacteria levels in groundwater were similar in developed and undeveloped areas

• nitrate levels in groundwater were higher in developed areas than undeveloped areas

• bacteria levels in groundwater were similar in both high and low season

• nitrate levels in groundwater were higher in high season than in low season

• bacteria and nitrate levels were most highly concentrated after runoff events

• bacteria levels in surface water were higher after rain events

• nitrate levels in surface water were higher in wet season than in dry season

One conclusion Thompson mentioned was that increased runoff — caused by developing the ground, which blocks the absorption of rainwater, forcing it to run off into the estuary and gulf — leads to lower water quality.

“Soil kind of acts like a wastewater treatment plant by removing some of the pollutants from the water as it seeps down into the aquifer, which is important because that groundwater interacts with the surface water,” Thompson said.

Loren Cohen of the SCCF Marine Lab and SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad were also in attendance and helped Thompson field questions.

The trio said that they would return in April with a complete report.

For more information about the SCCF Marine Lab’s study, go to www.sccf.org/content/173/Nearshore-Water-Quality-Study.aspx‘>www.sccf.org/content/173/Nearshore-Water-Quality-Study.aspx.