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Friends of the Mad River reports low E. coli levels throughout The Valley

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08/23/2007

Water samples taken by volunteers for Friends of the Mad River on Monday, August 20, showed low E. coli levels in all but one site. Of the 37 water quality testing sites, only Warren Riverside Park had an E. coli level that was above the Vermont state standard of <77 E. coli/100 ml. The low results in all the other sites is good news for swimmers for the moment, but with rain in the weekend forecast, E. coli levels could potentially rise. Water levels in the Mad River watershed are low at the moment and any rain event could wash pollutants into the streams and rivers.  

The Vermont water quality standard for recreational waters measures E. coli bacteria, an indicator of pollution from human or animal waste. The current favorable swimming conditions are a result of a lack of significant rainfall over the past week. The volume of water flowing in the Mad River has been steadily declining since August 14, when it peaked at approximately 130 cubic feet per second (cfs). The current water flow measurement from the USGS monitoring station in Moretown is at approximately 28 cfs (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?&site_no=04288000 ). Water levels could rise over the weekend if the forecasted rain brings any significant precipitation.



Without a recent rain "washing" event to send agricultural, human and pet waste into The Valley's rivers and streams, local swimmers are more likely to encounter safe swimming conditions in this low and declining water flow.  Warren Riverside Park's higher E. coli level could indicate a more constant source of contamination such as a failed septic system or a localized in-stream source such as wading cows, horse manure at a stream crossing, or wildlife such as deer, moose or beaver. To help avoid localized contamination, Valley residents are strongly encouraged to clean up after their pets anywhere near the Mad River or its tributaries.



Even though the E. coli levels are favorable at the moment, swimmers should consider recent weather and upstream activities as factors that may affect water quality. A rainstorm that turns the Mad River's waters brown with sediment would probably increase the E. coli levels significantly in many of the popular swimming areas.  



For more information about E. coli and the Mad River Watch program or to report a river-related illness call Friends of the Mad River at 496-9127. Thanks to this week's Mad River Watch volunteers Kathryn and Pam Barnes, Lisa Koitzsch, Elisabeth Osborn, Jay Meadows, Fran Plewak, Elizabeth Walker, Kinny Perot and Lynn Wawrzynek.

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