Rain can make rivers unclean
BRATTLEBORO - Entering the heat of the summer season, one of the most-asked questions the Connecticut River Conservancy gets is if rivers are clean enough for swimming, boating, and other recreation. There are two ways to know if rivers are likely clean. The first is to think about the recent weather. Rain picks up all sorts of pollutants as it flows across roads and parking lots, which are then flushed into rivers via storm drains. Additionally, heavy rain overwhelms aging sewer and stormwater infrastructure, causing sewage and polluted stormwater to flow directly into rivers rather than back up into homes. For these reasons, CRC recommends people stay out of the river for 24 to 48 hours after a heavy rain because bacteria levels could be high.
The second way to know if rivers are clean is to visit the CRC’s “Is It Clean?” website located at www.ctriver.org/IsItClean to find bacteria test results for nearly 200 river access and recreation sites in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The site is also available in Spanish at www.ctriver.org/EstaLimpio. The websites provide bacteria data for the Connecticut River and more than 20 tributaries, including the West and Black rivers in Vermont.
Each summer, CRC and more than 20 partner organizations deploy trained volunteers to collect water samples from popular boat launches and swimming holes. The samples are tested for E. coli bacteria, which could potentially make someone sick and may suggest the presence of other waterborne illness-causing pathogens. Samples are typically collected at each site weekly or bi-weekly and test results are posted online 24-hours later. Water samples are collected from June through early October. Water sample results are color-coded and map-based so users can easily see where bacteria levels are high.
Yet, river conditions are constantly changing. If the conditions have changed, that means a change in weather. The bacteria samples collected will result in different bacteria levels at any site at a given time; rain tends to cause bacteria levels to increase while dry weather results in lower bacteria levels.