Press release from MountainTrue:
MountainTrue’s Swim Guide bacteria monitoring results for the French Broad River watershed are in and this week 25 out of 34 sites passed with E. coli levels below the EPA limit for recreation waters of 235 colony-forming units (cfu) per 100 milliliters.
From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, dedicated MountainTrue volunteers gather samples from more than 60 popular water recreation sites throughout its service area of western North Carolina, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee. After samples are collected, MountainTrue staff race to process and analyze samples. Results are available on the Swim Guide website by Thursday afternoon or on the smartphone app, available for Android and Apple devices. The Swim Guide is the public’s best resource for knowing which areas are safest for swimming.
This week’s cleanest sites, with zero detection of E. coli, are French Broad at Barnard, Bent Creek, Hot Springs, Mills River Boat Access, the Upper Pigeon River, Hooker Falls in Dupont and Cedar Mountain Canteen (Little River). Other passing sites include the Pigeon River at Canton Recreational Park, Big Laurel River and Flat Creek in Montreat. If you’re interested in visiting these areas, addresses and coordinates are available on the Swim Guide website and smartphone app.
Of the nine sites that failed, Cane Creek at Fletcher Community Center, Hap Simpson, Hominy Creek Greenway and the Lower Pigeon River were the most polluted, with levels of E. coli double the EPA limit or higher. It would be best to avoid swimming in these areas until E.coli levels drop.
Overall, 74 percent of monitored sites passed with an average E. coli concentration of 181 cfu, below the EPA limit. More sites had decreased in E. coli levels from last week than sites that had increased levels and total E. coli levels are down 11 percent from last week. “Water quality is looking great at several sites across the watershed this week— time to get out and swim” says MountainTrue’s Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook. Still, continued work is required to monitor and prevent water pollution. MountainTrue uses these results to advocate for policy-based solutions to pollution. To find out more about our work and how to get involved, visit mountaintrue.org.
E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer/septic leaks and stormwater runoff – especially runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers. E. coli can also indicate 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 and less-developed public lands are the cleanest and will be less affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted. This trend is reflected in the Swim Guide results for our area.
MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. 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 residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper and Watauga Riverkeeper — the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds. For more information, please visit: www.mountaintrue.org
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: www.waterkeeper.org