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Tests show poor water quality in Green River basin

Five sites in the Green River Basin showed water quality levels below EPA standards, tests conducted by the Green Riverkeeper showed.

Each Thursday afternoon throughout the spring, summer and fall, the Green Riverkeeper releases new bacteria monitoring results for six monitoring sites at public access points in the Green River Basin. Results are posted to the Swim Guide website at the Swim Guide  – the public’s best resource for finding which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.

The Swim Guide lists each testing site as either passing or failing according to the EPA limit for E. coli in recreational waters of 235 cfu (or colony forming units) per 100 milliliters.

The results from testing on Wednesday, July 22, showed five of six sites at clean levels well under the EPA standard for health. Those sites are:
-- Lake Adger Marina
-- Big Rock Access
-- Fishtop Access
-- Upper Green Put-in Access
-- Bradley Falls Trailhead

“One of the six sites tested in the Green River watershed, the Big Hungry River at Big Hungry Road, exceeded safe bacteria levels this week,” explains Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan. “That site tested 307.6 cfu, which is only slightly above the threshold established by the EPA for safe swimming.”

Samples are collected on Wednesdays, processed using the Idexx system, incubated for 24 hours, and results are analyzed and posted on Thursday afternoons. Testing is conducted on the Green River at Pot Shoals Road and at Fishtop Access and Big Rock Access on Green River Cove Road. Other sites in the watershed include the Big Hungry River at Big Hungry Road, Cove Creek at the Bradley Falls Trailhead on Holbert Cove Road, and Lake Adger Marina. Results are available at the Swim Guide or on a smartphone app, available for Android smart phones and Apple iPhones.

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 public lands that lack a lot of agriculture, development or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and will be less affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.