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Matlacha water quality issues

By Staff | May 26, 2023

To the editor:

Regarding Matlacha and issues with water quality, they need to look in their own backyard because that is the source of their problem.

According to the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Partnership, the South Florida Water Management District (and other agencies or organizations), water quality in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass shows excess levels of: › Fecal coliform, nutrients, phosphorous and mercury. Pine Island and Matlacha have between 4,500 and 5000 septic systems which cause much of the problem.

“Pine Island Sound has degraded water quality with 95% of the watershed impaired for at least one parameter category… Nutrients in the watershed are of increasing concern, as the draft watershed assessment lists indicate that Matlacha Pass is newly impaired for nutrients, likely as a result of storm water and sewage/septic runoff. The same runoff is also most likely the source of the pathogen category impairments, specifically for fecal coliform.”

Pine Island and Matlacha use a combination of waste water treatment, including a larger sewage treatment plant in St. James City and about 11 smaller packaged waste treatment plants. About one third of these have been cited for various violations, including sewage spills.

These sewage problems are nothing new to Matlacha and Pine Island. Dahod, a Calusa Waterkeeper Ranger, recently teamed up with the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Department to test the water in Matlacha, after complaints from residents who said they were getting sick due to marine toxicity surrounding their homes.

“I’m currently pulling data for work being done by other organizations,” Dahod said. “I’m looking at the water quality data around Pine Island at sampling stations that already exist and I’ve looked at one in Matlacha Pass — it has total nitrogen values that are above the limit about half the time. It’s failing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s standards for water quality. It’s been failing for years and we haven’t gotten a handle on making it better.”

If you have seen some pictures of a canal in Matlacha: Gross, to say the least.

Duncan Russell

Cape Coral