WATER QUALITY REPORT: Alligator Creek (Escambia Slough): Fernandina Beach (Nassau County), FL
On August 12, 2022 the St. Marys Riverkeeper (SMRK) issued a Water Quality Alert advising residents to avoid swimming or fishing on Alligator Creek (Escambia Slough) in Fernandina Beach, FL due to unsafe levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) identified at 8th Street/Escambia Street during August water quality testing.
August 3: 1,033 CFU/100ml
August 9: 1,233 CFU/100ml
Per protocol, the Riverkeeper contacted City of Fernandina Beach, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and Nassau County (County Commission & Health Department) to educate residents and identify the source. SMRK also issued a media advisory and updated via social media channels.
In tidal areas such as Alligator Creek, tide flow can skew water quality testing results. An incoming or high tide can mask issues that can be clearly seen during a low tide (when the tide is low, counts are high; inversely when the tide is high, counts are low).
To address these types of issues, the Riverkeeper is updating sampling protocols to be more specific to tide and water flows.
Additional tests are scheduled with the updated sampling protocol and more information will be provided as results are gathered.
The Riverkeeper will continue to work with the City of Fernandina Beach, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health, and Nassau County to identify the source of the contamination and work to resolve the issue.
This ensures all citizens who utilize the area for recreation are aware of the dangers and protects the health of both the Amelia River and the St. Marys River.
In 2018, a similar report was filed with the City of Fernandina Beach and FDEP where the geometric mean for both 2018 and 2019 Riverkeeper datasets at the Slough was 831 CFU/100ml. FDEP investigated and after testing for enterococcus (a better bacterial indicator then E.coli in brackish water) in February 2022, they determined the Slough needed to be monitored closely.
In order for a waterbody to be labeled as ‘impaired’ and qualify for state grants, FDEP requires five regulatory level samples showing levels above state standard (shall not exceed a monthly geometric mean of 126 MPN) is required. FDEP tested for E.coli starting in March 2020 and the last recorded sample data was October 2021.
The sources of the 2018/2019 non-point source pollution were believed to be the septic systems of several houses in the area, illegal dumping, and the local predatory wildlife. Riverkeeper urged FDEP to do a septic tank audit of the area to narrow down the source of the contamination. This audit in partnership with Riverkeeper occurred but results were inconclusive, suspected to have been skewed by tidal issues as outlined above.
About SMRK Water Quality Testing
St. Marys Riverkeeper samples more than 50 sites using staff and trained volunteers to perform chemical and bacterial water quality monitoring throughout the watershed. The Riverkeeper reports results to local and state environmental agencies and to the community through our website and social media channels.
If you have questions, please contact us.