Friday, June 1, 2012

Etowah River Bacteria Monitoring Program Begins

In an effort to provide river users with information about when it's safe to play in the Etowah River, the Coosa River Basin Initiative this month launched its summer bacteria monitoring program on the river in Bartow and Floyd counties.

Now through September, the Rome-based Riverkeeper organization will conduct weekly bacteria tests at three locations between Allatoona Dam and Rome and provide this information to local media outlets and post it on the CRBI website:

"We run regular canoe and kayak trips on the Etowah, and its rare that we don't get out and play in the water. When we do this we always get questions about the health of the river," said Amos Tuck, Program Coordinator at CRBI. "This water monitoring program will help us answer those questions. High bacteria levels in the river indicate the presence of pathogens that could cause illnesses for those who come in contact with the water."

This marks the second year that CRBI has conducted this monitoring program. Between May-September 2011, the organization tested 81 water samples from the river through 27 sampling events. Of the 27 sampling events, 24 showed the geometric mean e. coli bacteria level at the three sites below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "safe limit" of 126 cfu/100ml. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers e-coli levels below this limit safe for recreation, including swimming. 

The events in which bacteria levels exceeded the EPA standard were closely associated with heavy rainfall when stormwater washes pollution off the surface of the land and into streams and rivers.

High bacteria levels in rivers can be attributed to manure from livestock, pets and wildlife, failing septic systems and leaking sewer lines, but the exact sources are often difficult to identify.

CRBI will conduct weekly monitoring at the US 411 Bridge in Bartow County, at Grizzard Park at the Rome Bypass and at the 2nd Avenue Bridge in Rome.

Test conducted on May 31 show a geometric mean level of 65.3 cfu/100 ml. for the three testing sites. At US 411 in Bartow County, levels were 49.5; at the Rome Bypass and Grizzard Park levels were 108.1 and at 2nd Avenue in Rome levels were 52.0

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