Monday, scientists with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute presented their findings from a two-year study, where water samples were taken from more than a dozen sites along the North Fork of the St. Lucie River, and the tributaries and canals that feed it.
“We did find a lot of evidence of wastewater contaminates," said Brian LaPointe with Harbor Branch.
Wastewater was found in areas served not just by septic tanks, but also where there were central sewers.
“To see the persistence of the human wastewater tracers in the system was surprising," said Rachel Brewton with Harbor Branch.
Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec says the city is in the midst of one of the largest septic to sewer conversion projects in the country, and is working on a number of municipal water quality projects.
“They can be proud that McCarty Ranch is under construction that when it’s done will take 21-percent of the excess nutrients out of the C-23," said Mayor Oravec.
Scientists added there is no single solution for maintaining good water quality in urban areas and no single source of pollution. The council asked staff to take the report, and consider cost effective solutions that city leaders can address this summer. Some proposed solutions included tracing potential pollution from the city sewer system, or adding more plant life to absorb excess nutrients along the shorelines.
“All these canals in the city, there are things we can do to improve our water quality tomorrow and we will," said Mayor Oravec.
Right now, there are warning signs at several parks in Port St. Lucie about high bacteria levels in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. The next round of testing from the department of health will be done next week.