Through the StreamWatch bacterial action team, volunteers test for Escherichia coli (E. coli) levels in the water at 13 sites. E. coli is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of animals and humans. The presence of this bacteria indicates that disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites of a fecal origin may be contaminating the water. Swimming or wading in streams with high E. coli levels is considered to be a health risk.
High E. coli levels can result from leaking septic or sewer systems, polluted runoff that has picked up animal (dog, goose, cow, etc.) waste en route to the stream, waterfowl in the stream, or wading cows.
Monitoring is being used to keep an eye on several hot spots and to identify other bacteria problems quickly. Two five-week monitoring periods occur every summer. Volunteers can opt to participate in one or both sessions. All samples are analyzed in-house using the IDEXX/Colilert method.