Higher levels of bacteria in Indian River

Found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/12/harbor-branch-higher-levels-bacteria-found-indian/


FORT PIERCE – There is an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon according to a new study released by FAU Harbor Branch scientists.

A check of water samples taken over the past year there indicates a sizable increase in bacteria, according the the study.

Water testing has taken place where Taylor Creek feeds into the lagoon as well as near the FAU Harbor Branch campus.

Both agricultural and urban runoff have contributed to higher bacteria levels in the Taylor Creek samples, according to scientists.

FAU Harbor Branch says that antibiotics are used extensively in medicine to prevent infections in humans and animals as well as in agriculture to promote the growth of livestock.

Scientists have found that antibiotics are being released into the environment and have been detected in waste water, surface water, ground water and sediments.

FAU Harbor Branch says that the antibiotics in the environment are contributing to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.


FORT PIERCE, Fla. (August 12, 2013) – Preliminary research from FAU Harbor Branch scientists has uncovered an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon. The study compared water samples taken from two locations in the lagoon in June 2011, 2012 and 2013. Data indicates a sizeable increase in the amount of bacteria present this year as compared to the two years prior.

“It is important to remember that these findings are preliminary,” said Peter McCarthy, Ph.D., an FAU Harbor Branch research professor who oversees the study. “Our goal is to continue to pursue this work, but funding will play a critical role in our ability to do so.”

The testing sites included where Taylor Creek feeds into the lagoon, as well as a second site close to the FAU Harbor Branch campus. Research showed that levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria were much higher in the Taylor Creek samples, a waterway which is impacted by agricultural and urban development and receives discharges from the C-25 canal as well as the Fort Pierce Farms Water Control District C-1 canal.

In a previous FAU Harbor Branch study, antibiotic-resistant bacteria had been detected in samples taken from Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon (Schaefer et al. 2009). These findings are what led to this water sampling research in 2011 and additional sampling of local dolphins is ongoing. Results from both projects, along with environmental data will provide a comprehensive overview of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the lagoon.

Antibiotics are used extensively in medicine to prevent and treat microbial infections in humans and animals, as well as in agriculture to promote the growth of livestock. As a result, antibiotics are released into the environment through disposal and excretion and have been detected in waste water, surface water, ground water and sediments. Exposure to these large quantities of antibiotics can lead to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic strains of bacteria.

For more information, contact Carin Smith at 772-242-2230 or carinsmith@fau.edu.

Reader Comment: Committee Meeting

Another concerned citizen, Pam, sent in this info about a committee meeting on August 22.  The committee members will be discussing how to address the Okeechobee dumping and we can send in our comments.  See Pam’s note below on how to do so.  Thanks so much, Pam!! #savethelagoon !


In case you do not yet have this info: go to http://www.flsenate.gov and click on “Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin” for info on the August 22 workshop being held 1pm – 9pm at the Charles & Rae Kane Center, 900 SE Salerno Rd, Stuart.

The public may attend, and there will be time at the end of the meeting for “Public Testimony”. Sen. Joe Negron is the Chair of this Select Committee, along with 7 other FL Senators. When you go to the webpage, you can also click on the link “Workshop List of Participants” to see the names of those on each Panel, the agenda, invited officials and speakers. Their outline states “Specifically, participants will be asked to discuss the short term options or alternatives to reduce or eliminate the current releases from Lake Okeechobee”. On this site, there is a form to submit your comments to the Select Committee.

Another website for info on members of the Select Committee: http://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/SIRO

Thanks for the great work you are doing to help save our Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River, marine life and wildlife. I read that Sanibel Island beaches are also being dumped on from Lake Okeechobee, via the Caloosahatchee River. The Mayor & City Coucil of Sanibel have written a letter to the Senate Select Committee, urging them to include the Caloosahatchee River with the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee issue.

I hope this info helps. It would be great if you could pass on this info, so people can make their voices heard to the committee before the hearing on Aug. 22.

Keep up the good work and keep the faith! Together, we can make a difference!

Pam Muse, Casselberry, FL

NOAA to investigate dolphin deaths

Found here: http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20130724/NEWS/130729866?p=2&tc=pg&tc=ar

NOAA to investigate dolphin deaths in Indian River Lagoon

Photos from Hubbs Sea-World
Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 1:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.

Federal officials will launch a formal investigation into a dolphin die-off in the central and northern parts of the Indian River Lagoon as the number of dead dolphins creeps toward 10 percent of the lagoon’s entire dolphin population.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday it will create a task force to look into the dolphin deaths, which were formally declared an unusual mortality event this week under terms of the federal marine mammal protection act.

The task force will work separately from a task force already investigating more than 120 manatee deaths in the lagoon, but some of the same scientists may be working in both investigations and the two groups will communicate and coordinate closely, said Blair Mase, Southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

The dolphin and manatee deaths are just two of a number of unusual events occurring in the Indian River Lagoon system, which started after a long drought and several bouts of freezing temperatures in 2010 and 2011. A phytoplankton bloom covered much of the lagoon in the summer of 2011, then a brown tide algae bloomed in the summer of 2012 and this spring.

The lagoon is a system of estuaries and waterways that lie along Florida’s east coast, beginning at Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County and stretching 156 miles south to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County.

Scientists have not yet determined the cause of death for the manatees, dolphins or the more than 250 dead pelicans that have been discovered. While many people suspect poor water quality may be a factor, no definitive links have been established yet.

More than a dozen agencies and organizations are working together in the search for answers. A state Senate committee was created last week to look into lagoon issues and coordinate water management.

Since Jan. 1, 51 dolphins have been found dead in the northern Brevard County portion of the lagoon, nearly twice the normal number, said Erin Fougeres, a NOAA biologist and stranding program administrator for the Southeast.

“It’s a significant number,” said Megan Stolen, a biologist with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Orlando. “We’re a little worried.

In aerial surveys of the entire lagoon system from Ponce Inlet to Jupiter Inlet in South Florida, Hubbs has estimated the dolphin population at about 700, Stolen said.

An independent panel of experts in marine mammal health and toxicology concluded this week that the dolphin deaths meet the criteria of an unusual mortality event, Fougeres said. That opens a formal investigative process and means additional resources will be available from a national contingency fund.

The manatee investigation was opened months ago. The two investigations will remain separate in part because the circumstances of the deaths are different.

“We definitely need to coordinate and communicate,” Mase said. “There may be similar factors impacting all of these species.”

The manatees appear to be dying quickly, while the dolphins are emaciated. But investigators have noticed apparent changes in the diets of both animals, with researchers finding macroalgal seaweed-type plants in the stomachs of the manatees and invertebrates rather than fish in the dolphins.

Manatees normally eat seagrass and dolphins typically eat fish associated with seagrasses in the lagoon. But tens of thousands of acres of seagrass have disappeared across the lagoon since the widespread algal blooms began occurring.

“There seems to be some sort of ecosystem thing going on,” Mase said, “and that’s what we’re going to be looking into, but we’re not ruling anything out at this point.”

Stolen said the dolphins seem to be “eating somewhat unusual items,” adding they still need to do “a lot more investigation to say that’s really an outcome or a contributing factor.”

While the dolphins in 2013 have been generally emaciated, a few factors are hampering the investigation, Stolen said.

The first is that many of the dolphins have been “scavenged by large sharks,” she said. “We all know there are sharks in the river, that’s a common finding, but in this case, it’s a bit extreme.”

That has prevented them from finding and keeping high quality samples for testing, in part because it speeds up decomposition.

“We don’t think the sharks are causing the die-off, but it’s causing a problem for the investigation,” she said.

Researchers also are concerned because dolphin calving season is approaching in August. Already in the past three weeks they’ve found three dead calves. Stolen said they don’t know if that’s because the calves have lost their mothers or if they are becoming part of the die-off. If it’s a dietary issue, the calves wouldn’t directly be affected, she said, because they’re still dependent on their moms for milk.

The investigations could take weeks, months or even years.

“It’s not going to be quick,” said Mase. “Analysis takes a lot of time, especially when you’re looking at a lot of factors, like seagrass, toxin anaylsis and water quality.”

Two mass stranding events have occurred among dolphins in the lagoon, one in 2001 and one in 2008. In both cases, investigators never determined a cause of death.