MountainTrue’s swim guide season starts this Memorial Day weekend

Press release from Mountain True:

Starting this Memorial Day weekend, area swimmers, paddlers, anglers and others who enjoy spending time playing in our local rivers and streams can access up-to-date water quality results for more than 85 popular recreation areas throughout Western North Carolina, Northeastern Tennessee, and North Georgia. MountainTrue’s Swim Guide program is powered by volunteers and staff who collect water samples every Wednesday and rush to process, analyze and post the results on the website and smartphone app in time for your weekend fun.

“We test for E. coli bacteria so that people know when and where it’s safe to swim,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. “E. coli is a reliable indicator of the presence of other bacteria and pathogens that are harmful to human health. Swim Guide is an easy-to-use resource that helps the public get the information they need to safely recreate on the water.”

The website or smartphone app, geo-locates the user and provides a list of nearby testing sites that either pass or fail the EPA guideline for E. coli in designated swimming areas of 235 CFU (or colony forming units) per 100 milliliters.

Samples are collected on Wednesdays, processed using the IDEXX Colilert system, incubated for 18 hours, and results are analyzed and posted on Thursday afternoons. Results are available on the Swim Guide website ( or on the smartphone app, available for Android and Apple iPhones.

E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer and septic system leaks, cattle accessing streams, and stormwater runoff — especially runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers. E. coli is an indicator of the presence of other more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus. Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. Contact with or consumption of contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.

In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or near protected public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and least affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are more heavily impacted.

MountainTrue uses the data collected through its Swim Guide, VWIN (Volunteer Water Information Network), Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and microplastics sampling programs to inform its advocacy and push for science-based policy solutions. Learn more at

About MountainTrue:

MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all. MountainTrue is active in the Broad, French Broad, Green, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New, Nottely, Elk, and Watauga river basins, and is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper.

About Waterkeeper Alliance:

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect over 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. For more information please visit:

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