Water Quality Testing Continues

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Organizers of the ongoing What’s In The Water Fort Myers Beach water quality program conducted their dry season water sampling test just in time on Saturday, May 23. “While we received significant rainfall on Friday evening, having such a beautiful calm morning was a real plus,” stated Penny Jarrett, What’s In The Water and Mound House Educational Coordinator. “I can’t say if Friday’s rainfall could cause nutrients to reach the water that quick. The fact we have been in a drought should provide good data for the dry season sampling, even though it was later than originally scheduled because of COVID-19. Let’s see what the data eventually tells us.”

Penny Jarrett hoped that the “beautiful calm morning” offset the previous evening’s rainfall.

The dry season test was originally scheduled for March 28, but then coronavirus precautions closed Fort Myers Beach. Jarrett schedules test dates to coincide with low tide because that is the best time to detect nutrients that almost assuredly come exclusively from the island’s non-source point pollutants (pollution from many diffuse sources, often linked to rainfall runoff.)

Thirty-seven volunteers collected two water samples at 46 island locations, then returned those to the Mound House, where Jarrett and Nicole Weigold from Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Water School and Vester Marine Science Field Station collected them under strict social distancing guidelines. “I will return these to Vester,” said Weigold, “where I and my colleagues Hannah Sims and Cierra Homic will immediately test one sample for turbidity, chlorophyll, CDOM (Colored Dissolved Organic Matter) and salinity and record the data.

Nicole Weigold, by the water samples cooler, and Penny Jarrett drop their masks just long enough to smile for the camera!

We will freeze the second to send to the FGCU laboratory where I will test it later for orthophosphate, nitrate/nitrite and ammonium analysis.”

Jarrett explained, “Dr. Michael Parsons of The Water School and Governor Ron DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force will interpret the data and add it to our ongoing report, with our next collection date this year near the end of rainy season. As an aside, while we thank all our volunteers, none had a more memorable morning than Kim Horn, who witnessed a dolphin giving birth!”

Each of 37 volunteers collected two dry season water samples from 46 island -wide locations.

The Mound House partners with FGCU and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Planet Stewardship Education Program for the What’s In The Water program.

For details or to volunteer in the future, contact Jarrett at 239-634-7602 or penny@fmbgov.com.