Rome’s Coosa River Basin Initiative is planning to report bacterial levels in Rome area waterways this summer, to let the community know places that may or may not be a good place to venture into the water.
Ashley Ray, the outreach coordinator for CRBI said summer interns will be used to help monitor bacterial levels at several locations, but said the specific sites for the monitoring have not been formally selected yet.
Back in 2011, CRBI conducted a six-month test of bacteria levels in the Etowah River between Rome and Cartersville between March and September.
Samples were taken at Neel’s Landing off U.S. 411 at Macedonia Road in Bartow County, at Dixon Landing off the Rome Bypass and near the Second Avenue Bridge in Rome.
Two dozen sampling events detected E. coli bacteria levels at the three sites below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “safe limit.” That means the water was considered safe for recreation.
Three sampling events resulted in E. coli levels above the safe standard, each of those coming after significant rains.
“A lot of time run-off causes the bacterial levels to go up,” Ray said. “There could be a lot of different reasons because it washes everything that is on the ground into the rivers, some of it could be agricultural, some of it is just trash.”
While boat ramps and launches would seem like natural places for there to be problems associated with run-off, CRBI Executive Director Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman said they are also locations where people are coming into contact with the water most frequently.
“That’s where people are likely to flip a canoe or kayak and get exposed to the water,” Demonbreun-Chapman said.
Sewage overflows associated with heavy rain events are also a frequent source of bacterial issues.
Ray said the water watchdog group hopes to monitor three or four different locations again this year and plans to make the sampling an annual event going forward.
“As we get more interns we will be able to expand the number of sites that we check,” Ray said.
She has one Berry Bonner Scholar lined up to help with the sampling this summer and expects to add at least one more before the sampling gets started.
Demonbreun-Chapman said the bacterial levels that will be made public this summer are not hard indicators of serious problems, but are good indicators of the potential for pathological bacteria.
There could be times when levels are elevated and people could be fine in the water but that people with low immune systems might want to think twice about going into the water “at that location — at that time.”