DNA tests on Hogan's Creek water to find source of harmful bacteria

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Located on the north side of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville's Springfield neighborhood is Hogan's Creek. There you'll find warning signs.

One reads 'Water contact may cause an increased risk of illness.'

This week biologists with the Department of Environmental Protection tested the water. They're doing DNA testing using new technology to find out if the waste in the creek belongs to animals or humans.

On any given day, you'll find neighbors in the Springfield area strolling along Hogan's Creek.

"It's such a beautiful park, "said Johannes Ullrick. "It would be nice to use it more and have it look nice and clean."

The creek is currently filled with murky water and trash. A posted sign shows the bacteria levels exceed state standards.

"With all of the cleanups happening it's kind of sad that it doesn't last," said Ullrick.

He's lived in the Springfield area for about seven years. There's an annual cleanup that takes place among neighbors, but he says it doesn't take long for things to get back to a messy state. Even more alarming than the trash scattered about, is the harmful bacteria floating around. DEP biologists took samples from the creek on Monday. Using a new DNA testing method they'll be able to figure out if the fecal coliform bacteria in the water comes from human waste, animals or other sources.

"Well I hope it will be cleaned up no matter what exactly is in the creek," said Ullrick.

DEP says once the testing is complete city officials can figure out the best way to clean out the creek. In December of 2009 a plan was put in place to restore the Lower St. Johns Tributaries, which includes Hogan's Creek. Since then, the city of Jacksonville and JEA have been able to drop the harmful bacteria levels by 76 percent using methods such as eliminating sewer overflows. The goal is to reduce it by 92 percent.


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