Keep out of Martin County rivers; health department issues advisories

People complaining of sickness after exposure

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Bode Chapman races around his Palm City home like any active 21-month old.

But he didn't have much pep last week after his family spent a day out on the water at the Stuart sandbar.

"Unfortunately I willingly allowed my son to play freely in the sand and in the water," said Bode's mom Shannon Chapman.

Bode had a stomach bug for days.  A trip to the pediatrician showed there was nothing more serious involved.

Chapman said with no signage out by the sandbar, she wasn't aware that the county health department had recommended that no one swim in the county rivers.

While Martin County's ocean beaches are fine, the county health department has been reminding people not to swim in the river water at all.

"Could be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritations," said Renay Rouse with the Martin County Health Department.

The health department did investigate one family that got sick recently, but it turned out that family had the norovirus, which was not linked to the river water.

The Army Corps of Engineers says recent releases from Lake Okeechobee are necessary to lower the lake level at the Herbert Hoover Dike.

But the lake water drastically reduces the salinity, or the salt levels, in the St. Lucie.

"Which is bad for oysters, it's bad for sea grass and the pollution really taints the whole St. Lucie estuary," said Mark Perry with the Florida Oceanographic Society.

Perry says oysters usually start to die out after 28 days of too much exposure to freshwater.  With the discharges well past that now, he wonders how they'll fare down the road.

And the Chapmans wonder when they'll be able to let their son play in the river again, if ever.

Testing of the rivers is done each week.  The results are on the county health department website, here.

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