Advisory for North Fork of St. Lucie River

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 18:59:41-05

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla-- A new health advisory is now in effect for parts of the St. Lucie River in St. Lucie County.

The St. Lucie County Health Department says the North Fork area has high levels of fecal bacteria and people should avoid contact.

Ray Clarke, captain of the St. Lucie River Princess, says a health advisory this early in the year could kill his business.

"The nitrogen and the potassium and the heavy metals, but the fecal matter is just a game killer," said Clarke.

The Health Department  is warning residents and tourists to avoid contact.

"They go home and they say poisonous water. I wont go back there," said Clarke.

The advisory stretches from the River Park Marina at Prima Vista south to the Martin County line, where a similar health advisory was already in effect.

Clarke has been navigating these waters for more than 6 years. He believes these high levels of bacteria are directly related to the Lake Okeechobee releases that started about a week ago.

"One tide coming in. One high tide and it spreads throughout the river."

However, the Health Department says while these are high levels of bacteria, it’s something they’ve seen before, typically after a really wet month.

"These are the things we typically see after rainfall. And January was a pretty wet month. That's what we believe is going on. Water flowing out of the ten mile creek area," said Victor Faconti, with the Health Department.

The Health Department will continue to test the water. Health officials say the current advisory will last until the bacteria levels go back to normal.

You can get sick if you come into contact with the water. The symptoms range from stomach issues to a skin rash.